Benjamin List, two-fold grantee of the European Research Council (ERC), has been awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis.” He shares the award with David W.C. MacMillan. Professor List’s work in this field has been funded for a decade by two ERC Advanced Grants. It is the second 2021 Nobel Prize awarded to an ERC-funded scientist and the ninth Nobel Prize since the ERC’s launch in 2007.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences recognised the laureates for their ground-breaking research resulting in the development of organocatalysts, precise tools to construct new molecules. This has had a great impact on pharmaceutical research and has helped to make chemistry greener.
Benjamin List’s research work at Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, Germany, has been funded by two ERC Advanced Grants from 2011 to 2021. Professor List’s ERC-funded work focused on creating novel organocatalysts. Many research areas and industries are dependent on chemists’ ability to construct molecules both selectively and efficiently. This work requires the mediation of catalysts, which are compounds that accelerate chemical reactions, without becoming part of the final product.
Professor List’s first ERC grant, led to the development of original disulfonimide lewis-acid catalysts, which proved to be excellent organocatalysts in a wealth of fundamental organic synthetic transformations. They opened further opportunities for efficient synthesis of bioactive molecules. With his second ERC grant, Benjamin List aimed to design and develop the syntheses of efficient enantioselective organocatalysts, crucial to synthesise specific, desired versions of molecules. The research was at the border of the different fields of organic chemistry, homogeneous catalysis and physical-chemistry. These are some of the most efficient catalysts that chemistry knows.
Read the scientific background of this winning research here(pdf).
Read the official press release here (pdf).