Carolyn Bertozzi was awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of bioorthogonal chemistry, chemical reactions that can be used inside living organisms.
Bioorthogonal chemistry, a term coined by Bertozzi in 2003, refers to a class of chemical reactions that scientists can perform inside cells or organisms without impacting the normal functions of the living systems. These reactions have provided a non-invasive approach to probing biology and have accelerated drug discovery and drug targeting.
The 2022 Nobel Prize was shared with Morten Meldal and Barry Sharpless, who laid the foundations for a form of chemistry called “click chemistry” in which molecular building blocks snap together quickly and efficiently. Bertozzi elevated click chemistry by developing click reactions that can be used inside living organisms.
Her advancements are being used "to discover new kinds of molecules we didn't know existed," Bertozzi said at the winners' press conference, and means scientists are "doing chemistry inside human patients to make the drugs go to the right place." Her bioorthogonal reactions are now contributing to more targeted cancer treatments, among many other applications.
Bertozzi’s current research focuses on the application of bioorthogonal chemistries and the development of new technologies to study cell surface sugars important to human health and disease. Her research group analyzes changes in cell surface glycosylation associated with cancer, inflammation, and bacterial infection, and uses this information to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.
Bertozzi is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Chemistry and the Baker Family Director of Sarafan ChEM-H at Stanford University.