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Benjamin List and David MacMillan win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021. © Nobel Prize Outreach/Niklas Elmehed
Nobel Prize laureate and RESOLV Principal Investigator: Benjamin List.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to RESOLV Member Benjamin List

The Royal Swedish Academy of Science has awarded to Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021 to Benjamin List and David W.C. Macmillan “for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis”.

This year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry will be awarded to one of RESOLV’s Principal-Investigators: Benjamin List. Together with David MacMillan, he receive the prestigious award for their development of asymmetric organocatalysis.  Benjamin List is director at the Max Planck Institute für Kohlenforschung in Mülheim an der Ruhr. David MacMillan is a professor at Princeton University and director of the Merck Center of Catalysis.

Goran K. Hansson of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the decision this Wednesday in Stockholm. During the announcement ceremony, Benjamin List was asked to describe his feeling when he received the phone call from Stockholm: “I thought somebody was making a joke with me. Sitting at breakfast with my wife [and] “SWEDEN” appears on my phone. I looked at her, she looked at me and I ran out of the café and it was this amazing call. It’s hard to describe what you feel in this moment. It was a very special moment that I will never forget”, says Benjamin List.

For pioneer work in their field

The prize was awarded for their pioneer work in development of a new kind of catalysis. Johan Åqvist, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry explains further: “This concept for catalysis is as simple as it is ingenious, and the fact is that many people have wondered why we didn’t think of it earlier”.

Catalysts are of outmost importance in science and industry. For a long time only two types of catalysts were available: metals and enzymes. In 2000, independent from each other, Benjamin List and David W.C. Macmillan developed a new, third kind: organocatalysts.  The committee highlights the ability of organocatalysts to drive asymmetric or enantioselective catalysis, which is needed, for example when producing pharmaceuticals. Organocatalysts are metal-free and are therefore cheaper and more environmentally friendly than conventional metal-based catalysts.

Since 2000, the organocatalysis has made huge progress. Benjamin List explains during the announcement ceremony: “Our early-day-catalysts, in comparison to what we have now, were like a million times less efficient. In my opinion the real revolution of our discoveries is only surfacing now.  These extremely reactive organocatalysts, can do stuff that you cannot do with enzymes or even with the most sophisticated metal complexes.” The pioneers Benjamin List and David MacMillan remain leaders in the field.

RESOLV is very proud of Benjamin Listbeing part of the cluster of excellence from the first hour on and congratulates him for the Nobel prize!

REWATCH the Announcement Ceremony

Read more (German press release)


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