Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A guide for reporters on the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Somewhere in the good ol' US of A, USA (DON'T HAVE TO CREDIT CHEMJOBBER):

3 chemistry professors, Richard Heck (formerly of the University of Delaware), Ei-ichi Negishi (Japanese descent, of Purdue University) and Akira Suzuki (Japanese descent, of Hokkaido University) were awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis" by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. These are techniques for bonding (or connecting) smaller carbon-based molecules together to make larger carbon-based molecules.

Creating carbon-carbon bonds can be difficult and can sometimes involve using dangerous, impractical or environmentally unfriendly reaction chemistry; the techniques pioneered by Suzuki, Heck, and Negishi make these reactions simple enough for novice chemists to perform and practical enough that they can be run on multi-ton scale. Since their introduction in the late 1970's, palladium-catalyzed chemical reactions have touched every part of the field of chemistry, including life-saving drugs, plastics and organic LEDs. The modern pharmaceutical industry would not be able to produce many of their products without palladium-catalyzed reactions.

The prize has been long-awaited by many chemists. "It's about damn time", said Chemjobber, a very junior synthetic organic chemist. "I don't know what it took to get those Swedes to finally get their thumb out." It is believed that part of the reason is the rules of the Nobel Prize: there can be no more than 3 awardees at one time, and they all must be living. Many chemists contributed to the field of palladium-catalyzed reactions. Professors Sonogashira, Tsuji, and Kumada could have all been part of this award, and the chemistry Nobel committee is notoriously controversy-shy.

Professor Heck has retired and currently lives with his wife in the Philippines. Professor Negishi is still teaching and research at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Professor Suzuki is still teaching and researching at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan.

11 comments:

  1. Your second paragraph is money. You'd be hard pressed to find a better summary than those first two sentences.

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  2. @Chemjobber and community: How much private bickering will there be amongst the "post-pioneers" of palladium cross-coupling, i.e., those who developed heteroatom-carbon bond-forming reactions, performed prominent mechanistic studies, or greatly expanded utility of the method? I thought Katz got a bit shafted for the olefin metathesis Nobel, even though his crossover studies proved the metallocyclobutane pathway. Anyway, it's a shame that Stille died in that plane crash; as much as I find organostannanes revolting, I've had to resort to the Stille coupling when boron just couldn't cut it. Also, why limit the prize to three awardees? At least dividing 1 million dollars/krona by 4 gives a whole number quotient!

    Lavoisier

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  3. Chemjobber, your hyperlink to In the Pipeline isn't working. Trying to hijack some of Derek's blog traffic, perhaps?

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  4. A12:34p: It's an error with the applet that I used to set up the blogroll (it's over 18 months old, I think. Note "The Chem Blog" isn't even open anymore...)

    I gotta change that thing anyhow. Thanks for the reminder.

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  5. So, does this foretell another, later prize for C-X (X = O, N, S, etc) Pd-cat bond formation later on [lookin' at you, Buchwig-Hartwald]

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  6. hartwig does really boring chemistry, i hope to god nobody thinks its nobel worthy

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  7. @Scripps: I don't think so. Nucleophilic aromatic substitution, although ancient and downplayed since the development of Pd-catalysis, still works very well with halogenated heterocycles. Plus the Ullmann and Goldberg amination/etherification have been known for nearly a century, even though stoichiometric copper is needed. This year's awardees pioneered Pd-catalyzed CC bond formation; arguably, those that followed have merely expanded and optomized the scope of Pd-catalysis. Not to knock Buchwald or Hartwig though...Buchwald is probably making more money of the Suzuki reaction (via proprietary catalyst sales) than Akira Suzuki himself. As an analagous speculation, do you think Phil Baran should get a Nobel for organic synthesis after Woodward and Corey's awards?

    Lavoisier

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  8. Lavoisier again. Oops, I meant to say, "Buchwald is probably making more money OFF the Suzuki reaction (via proprietary LIGAND sales) than Akira Suzuki himself.

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  9. CJ and followers, check out the University of Nottingham's video about the 2010 Chem Nobel:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/periodicvideos

    Love the British accents, green labcoat, and the Prof's hair! Glad to see that the Brits also have to deal with ghetto-ass tetrakis from a vendor who shall remain unnamed.

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