The 2022 Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to Carolyn R Bertozzi, Morten Meldal and K Barry Sharpless “for the development of click chemistry and bioorthogonal chemistry”.



  • Sharpless was the first scientist to work on ‘click chemistry’ – a branch of science that explores the assembly of molecules.
  • Meldal and Dr. Sharpless – independently of each other – presented the copper-catalysed azide-alkyne cycloaddition (CuAAC), a reaction that is now widely used in fields like medicinal chemistry. The CuAAC reaction is an improved form of the azide-alkyne Huisgen cycloaddition.
  • Bertozzi improved the field further by developing click reactions that work inside living organisms. These bioorthogonal reactions do not disrupt the normal chemistry of the cell.


What is click chemistry?

Click chemistry is a functional field where molecules snap together quickly and efficiently – literally like a click. It is defined as a “set of powerful, highly reliable, and selective reactions for the rapid synthesis of useful new compounds and combinatorial libraries through heteroatom links”.


Need of Click Chemistry

  • Replicating reactions that involve bonds between carbon atoms – that are vital to the existence of life — is expensive and often leads to side reactions and loss of material.
  • Instead of trying to make carbon atoms react with each other, Dr. Sharpless’s research focuses on using smaller molecules that already have a complete carbon frame. These molecules can further be linked using oxygen or nitrogen atoms as bridges.
  • Simpler reactions, “where there is a strong intrinsic drive for the molecules to bond together”, may avoid the loss of material as well as the unwanted side reactions.