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Nobel prize for men who made organic chemistry "an art form"

The breakthrough could pave the way for new drugs to fight cancer.

Hokkaido University professor emeritus Akira Suzuki speaks during a press conference at the university in Sapporo, Japan.
Hokkaido University professor emeritus Akira Suzuki speaks during a press conference at the university in Sapporo, Japan.

THE NOBEL PRIZE for Chemistry has been awarded to three scientists who have discovered a way to manipulate carbon atoms, which could open the door for breakthroughs in tackling disease as well as for the production of revolutionary plastics.

Richard Heck of the United States and Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki of Japan were awarded the prize for outstanding contributions in organic chemistry. The basis of the field is carbon, which is both one of the essential atoms of life and also of countless industrial synthetics – meaning breakthroughs in the area can benefit human lifestyle and life itself.

The progress made has allowed chemists to synthesise compounds to fight colon cancer, the herpes virus and HIV, reports AFP. On top of that, it will also enable “smarter” plastics to be manufactured for use in consumer applications like computer monitors.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said:

It is important to emphasise the great significance their discoveries have for both academic and industrial research and in the production of fine chemicals – including pharmaceuticals, agricultural chemicals and high-tech materials – that benefit society.

The Academy said that the trio had turned organic chemistry into ”an art form, where scientists produce marvellous chemical creations in their test tubes,” and added that the discoveries:

…have had a great impact on academic research, the development of new drugs and materials, and are used in many industrial chemical processes for the synthesis of pharmaceuticals and other biologically active compounds.

The Nobel prize has been awarded for work in organic chemistry on four previous occasions; in 1912, 1950, 1979 and 2005.

This year, laureates will receive 10 million Swedish kronor (€1.09m) which will be split three ways between the winners.

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