This article is from the In-Depth Report The 2010 Nobel Prizes
60-Second Science

Chemistry Nobel Goes to Richard Heck, Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki for Technique to Build Complex Molecules

Richard Heck, Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for the development of new ways to synthesize complex organic molecules using palladium-catalyzed cross-couplings. Steve Mirsky reports

The 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to the University of Delaware’s Richard Heck, Purdue’s Ei-ichi Negishi and Hokkaido University’s Akira Suzuki for their work in developing new ways to synthesize complex organic molecules by way of what are called palladium-catalyzed cross-couplings.

Two organic compounds that ordinarily would not readily react with other easily both bond to an atom of palladium. Carbon atoms on the two molecules, now in close proximity, bond to each other, forming a new compound.

Biochemist Lars Thelander at the announcement from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences: “Palladium-catalyzed cross-coupling has made it possible to synthesize carbon based molecules, for example, new medicines, agricultural chemicals and organic compounds used in the electronics industry.”

A prime example is discodermalide, produced naturally by a marine sponge, but in very small quantities. After it was found to have anti-tumor properties, large quantities were able to be made using palladium-catalyzed cross-coupling.

—Steve Mirsky

[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

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