Nobel Prize for three chemists who made molecules ‘click’

Nobel Prize for three chemists who made molecules ‘click’
Screens shows winners Carolyn R. Bertozzi (U.S), Morten Meldal (Denmark) and K. Barry Sharpless (U.S.) of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry during a news conference at The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden, October 5, 2022. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 06 October 2022

Nobel Prize for three chemists who made molecules ‘click’

Nobel Prize for three chemists who made molecules ‘click’

STOCKHOLM: Three scientists were jointly awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for developing a way of “snapping molecules together” that can be used to explore cells, map DNA and design drugs that can target diseases such as cancer more precisely.
Americans Carolyn R. Bertozzi and K. Barry Sharpless, and Danish scientist Morten Meldal were cited for their work on click chemistry that works “sort of like molecular Lego.”
“It’s all about snapping molecules together,” said Johan Aqvist, a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences that announced the winners at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
Sharpless, 81, who previously won a Nobel in 2001 and is now the fifth person to receive the prize twice, first proposed the idea of connecting molecules using chemical “buckles” around the turn of the millennium, Aqvist said.
“The problem was to find good chemical buckles,” he said. “They have to react with each other easily and specifically.”
Meldal, 68, based at the University of Copenhagen, and Sharpless, who is affiliated with Scripps Research in California, independently found the first such candidates that would easily snap together with each other but not with other molecules, leading to applications in the manufacture of medicines and polymers.
Bertozzi, 55, who is based at Stanford University “took click chemistry to a new level,” the Nobel panel said, by finding a way to make the process work inside living organisms without disrupting them.
The goal is “doing chemistry inside human patients to make sure that drugs go to the right place and stay away from the wrong place,” she said at a news conference following the announcement.

The award was a shock, she said. “I’m still not entirely positive that it’s real, but it’s getting realer by the minute.”
Later, speaking to The Associated Press by Zoom, Bertozzi said one of the first people she called after being awakened by the call around 2 a.m. was her father, William Bertozzi, a retired physicist and night owl, who was still awake watching TV.
“Dad, turn down the TV, I have something to tell you,” she said she told him. After she assured him nothing was wrong, he guessed the news. “You won it, didn’t you?”
One of three daughters, Bertozzi said she was “fortunate because I grew up with parents that were very supportive, evangelical almost, about having their girls participate in the sciences.”
Bertozzi, who is paid by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which also supports The Associated Press’ Health and Science Department, said she was grateful for the energy and enthusiasm that a Nobel Prize win will inject into the field.
Meldal said he received the call from the Nobel panel about half an hour before the public announcement. “They ... told me not to tell anyone,” he told the AP, adding that he just sat in his office, shaking a bit.
Meldal started out as an engineer, “but I wanted to understand the world so I thought chemistry would give me the solutions.”
Jon Lorsch, director of the US National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which supports the work of Bertozzi and Sharpless, described click chemistry as “sort of like molecular Lego — you have a group on one molecule that specifically attaches to a group on another molecule,” like Lego clicking together.
“That makes it possible to attach molecules in very specific pre-defined ways,” he said, and gives scientists a very precise tool to build complex new molecules for use in drugs, synthetic materials and other uses.
However, the first iteration of click chemistry could not be used with living cells. “The original click chemistry used copper as a catalyst to join molecules,” Lorsch said. “But the trouble is that copper is toxic to most living systems at higher concentrations.”
Bertozzi then devised a way to jumpstart the reactions without copper or other toxic solvents — broadening the applications to human and animal tissues.
“Being able to work without dangerous solvents, opened many new doors — it enabled scientists to work on new types of reactions that actually take place within the human body,” said Angela Wilson, president of the American Chemical Society.
That has allowed scientists to attach dyes to cancer cells to track their movements and analyze how they differ from healthy tissue.
Wilson believes the advances of this year’s Nobel laureates “will allow more individualized medicine in the future because we can really track things much better within the human body.”
Sharpless credited his passion for looking for the impossible and not accepting limits for helping him stumble upon his discoveries.
“I’m just really lucky to have a photographic memory and love the periodic table,” he told a virtual news conference from his home in the San Diego suburb of La Jolla. “Prizes aren’t what I’m doing science for. ... I have to do it. It’s kind of a compulsion,”
M.G. Finn, a chemist now at Georgia Tech who collaborated with Sharpless on his Nobel-winning work, said click chemistry’s use in biology and drug development was still “at its infancy,” with more exciting discoveries to come.
Meldal agreed.
It’s “very much an opportunity ... when you get this kind of award to argue for our young people to take chemistry as a discipline,” he said at a news conference in Copenhagen. “Chemistry is the solution to many of our challenges.”
Last year’s prize was awarded to scientists Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan for finding an environmentally cleaner way to build molecules that the Nobel panel said is “already benefiting humankind greatly.”
A week of Nobel Prize announcements kicked off Monday with Swedish scientist Svante Paabo receiving the award in medicine for unlocking secrets of Neanderthal DNA that provided key insights into our immune system.
Three scientists won the prize in physics Tuesday. Frenchman Alain Aspect, American John F. Clauser and Austrian Anton Zeilinger showed that tiny particles can retain a connection with each other even when separated, a phenomenon that can be used for specialized computing and to encrypt information.
The awards continue with literature on Thursday. The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced Friday and the economics award on Monday.
The prizes carry a cash award of 10 million Swedish kronor (nearly $900,000) and will be handed out on Dec. 10. The money comes from a bequest left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, in 1895.
 


UN General Assembly adopts four draft resolutions to boost ‘lagging’ relief system

UN General Assembly adopts four draft resolutions to boost ‘lagging’ relief system
Updated 17 sec ago

UN General Assembly adopts four draft resolutions to boost ‘lagging’ relief system

UN General Assembly adopts four draft resolutions to boost ‘lagging’ relief system
  • One of them focuses on assistance for the Palestinian people and urges the international community to push ahead with reconstruction efforts in Gaza
  • The others call for the improvement of disaster-preparation systems, properly structured responses to such disasters, and improved protection of humanitarian workers

LONDON: The UN General Assembly adopted four draft resolutions on Tuesday intended to strengthen its relief system, which it noted is struggling to assist nearly 400 million people facing severe crises around the globe.

One of the resolutions focuses on “Assistance to the Palestinian People.” It underscores the importance of emergency and humanitarian assistance in the Gaza Strip, and the need to move forward with reconstruction efforts. It urges the international community to provide urgently needed assistance and services to alleviate the difficult humanitarian situation confronting Palestinian women, children and families, and to assist in the reconstruction and development of Palestinian institutions.

The resolution “Strengthening of the Coordination of Emergency Humanitarian Assistance of the United Nations” encourages the international community to provide assist to member states in preparing for disasters. It also promotes the creation of multi-hazard warning systems and recognizes the accomplishments of the Central Emergency Response Fund.

In adopting “International Cooperation on Humanitarian Assistance in the Field of Natural Disasters, From Relief to Development,” the General Assembly recognized the link between emergency responses, rehabilitation and development, along with the importance of facilitating a smooth transition between these three stages.

The fourth resolution, “Safety and Security of Humanitarian Personnel and Protection of United Nations Personnel,” strongly condemns all acts of violence, attacks and threats directed against humanitarian workers, as well as the UN and its affiliates. It urges states to investigate all such incidents and expand their procedures to improve the systematic monitoring, reporting and investigation of attacks on humanitarian aid workers and medical personnel.

 


Ukraine’s Zelensky named Time’s 2022 ‘Person of the Year’

Ukraine’s Zelensky named Time’s 2022 ‘Person of the Year’
Updated 07 December 2022

Ukraine’s Zelensky named Time’s 2022 ‘Person of the Year’

Ukraine’s Zelensky named Time’s 2022 ‘Person of the Year’
  • The former comedian rallied his compatriots in broadcasts from the capital and traveled across his war-torn nation
  • On Tuesday, Zelenskiy visited Ukrainian troops near the front lines in eastern Ukraine

DUBAI: Time magazine named Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky 2022’s “Person of the Year” on Wednesday, saying he inspired Ukrainians and won global accolades for his courage in resisting Russia’s devastating invasion.
Refusing to leave Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv at the outbreak of the war as Russian bombs rained down, the former comedian rallied his compatriots in broadcasts from the capital and traveled across his war-torn nation, the publication noted in bestowing its annual title.
On Tuesday, Zelensky visited Ukrainian troops near the front lines in eastern Ukraine.
“Zelensky’s success as a wartime leader has relied on the fact that courage is contagious. It spread through Ukraine’s political leadership in the first days of the invasion, as everyone realized the president had stuck around,” Time wrote in acknowledging the 44-year-old leader.
Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk was named Time’s “Person of the Year” in 2021, a year that saw his electric car company become the most valuable carmaker in the world. Time began this tradition in 1927.


155 lightly injured in train collision near Barcelona

155 lightly injured in train collision near Barcelona
Updated 07 December 2022

155 lightly injured in train collision near Barcelona

155 lightly injured in train collision near Barcelona

MADRID: More than 150 people were lightly injured Wednesday when a train ran into the back of another at a station near Barcelona, the emergency services and Spain’s Renfe rail operator said Wednesday.
A spokeswoman for the SEM regional emergency services said the vast majority of those hurt in the collision which occurred just before 8:00 am (0700 GMT) sustained light injuries, while five were in moderate condition.
“There was a collision between two trains at 7:50 am at the Montcada i Reixac-Manresa station, on the line heading to Barcelona, that’s to say one train ran into the back of another,” a spokesman for the state rail operator told AFP.
Rail traffic along the line was suspended in both directions and Renfe had opened an investigation into what happened, he said.
“There were 155 people affected of which 150 were lightly injured and five who were moderately hurt,” a spokeswoman told AFP.
She said 18 medical units had been deployed to the area, which lies some 10 kilometers (six miles) north of Barcelona.


Germany busts far-right terror cell planning parliament attack

Germany busts far-right terror cell planning parliament attack
Updated 07 December 2022

Germany busts far-right terror cell planning parliament attack

Germany busts far-right terror cell planning parliament attack
  • Raids targeted alleged members of “Citizens of the Reich” (Reichsbuerger) movement
  • Two of the 25 arrests were made abroad

FRANKFURT: German police staged nationwide raids on Wednesday and arrested 25 people suspected of belonging to a far-right “terror cell” plotting to overthrow the government and attack parliament.
Around 3,000 officers including elite anti-terror units took part in the early morning raids and searched more than 130 properties, in what German media described as one of the country’s largest police actions ever against extremists.
The raids targeted alleged members of the “Citizens of the Reich” (Reichsbuerger) movement suspected of “having made concrete preparations to violently force their way into the German parliament with a small armed group,” federal prosecutors said in a statement.
Those arrested are accused of having formed “a terrorist group by the end of November 2021 at the latest, which had set itself the goal of overcoming the existing state order in Germany and replacing it with their own kind of state,” they said.
Two of the 25 arrests were made abroad, in Austria and Italy.
The prosecutors in Karlsruhe said they had identified a further 27 people as suspected members or supporters of the terror network.
The Reichsbuerger movement includes neo-Nazis, conspiracy theorists and gun enthusiasts who reject the legitimacy of the modern German republic.
Long dismissed as malcontents and oddballs, the Reichsbuerger have become increasingly radicalized in recent years and are seen as a growing security threat.
Former soldiers are believed to be among the members of the recently established terror group, federal prosecutors said.
“The accused are united by a deep rejection of state institutions and the free, democratic basic order of the Federal Republic of Germany,” they said.
The suspects were aware that their plan “could only be realized by using military means and violence against state representatives,” they added.
Justice Minister Marco Buschmann praised the dismantling of the “suspected terror cell” on Twitter, saying it showed that Germany was able to defend its democracy.
Reichsbuerger followers generally believe in the continued existence of the pre-war German Reich, or empire, as it stood under the Nazis, and several groups have declared their own states.
They typically deny the authority of police and other state institutions.
According to prosecutors, the terror cell suspects believe in Reichsbuerger and QAnon conspiracy theories and are “strongly convinced” that Germany is run by a “deep state” that needs to be toppled.
They allegedly planned to appoint one of the arrested suspects, Heinrich XIII P.R., as Germany’s new leader after the coup.
He had already sought to make contact with Russian officials to discuss Germany’s “new state order” after the coup, prosecutors said.
There was however “no indication that the contact persons responded positively to his request.”
A Russian woman named as Vitalia B., who was among those arrested on Wednesday, is suspected of having facilitated those contacts, prosecutors added.
As part of the preparations for the coup, members of the alleged terror cell acquired weapons, organized shooting practice and tried to recruit new followers, particularly among the military and police, according to prosecutors.
Germany’s domestic intelligence service estimates that the Reichsbuerger scene consists of around 20,000 people.
Of those, more than 2,000 are deemed potentially violent.
Germany considers far-right terrorism the biggest threat to its security following a spate of attacks in recent years.
In April, police foiled a plot by a far-right group to kidnap the health minister.
The group was affiliated with the Reichsbuerger movement and the so-called “Querdenker” (Lateral Thinkers) group that opposed the government’s coronavirus-related shutdowns.


‘Humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction,’ warns UN chief

‘Humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction,’ warns UN chief
Updated 07 December 2022

‘Humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction,’ warns UN chief

‘Humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction,’ warns UN chief
  • “As you can also see Canada is a place of free expression, where individuals and communities are free to express themselves openly and strongly, and we thank them for sharing their perspectives,” said Trudeau in response

MONTREAL: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday slammed multinational corporations for turning the world’s ecosystems into “playthings of profit” and warned failure to correct course would lead to catastrophic results.
“With our bottomless appetite for unchecked and unequal economic growth, humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction,” he said, in a speech ahead of biodiversity talks in Montreal.
Since taking office in 2017, Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister, has made climate change his signature issue.
His fiery denunciations at the ceremonial opening of the conference, known as COP15, revealed the plight of the planet’s endangered plants and animals — an interconnected crisis — are equally close to his heart.
Before he took the dais, a group of around half a dozen Indigenous protesters interrupted a speech by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is co-hosting the event with China.
They waved a banner that read “Indigenous genocide = Ecocide” and “To save biodiversity stop invading our land,” and chanted for a few minutes before they were escorted out, to a smattering of applause.
“As you can also see Canada is a place of free expression, where individuals and communities are free to express themselves openly and strongly, and we thank them for sharing their perspectives,” said Trudeau in response.
The meeting is not to be confused with another set of UN talks earlier this month, which were on climate and called COP27.

Nearly 200 countries have gathered for the December 7-19 meeting in an effort to hammer out a “Paris moment” for nature.
The challenges are daunting: one million species are at risk of extinction; one-third of all land is severely degraded and fertile soil is being lost; while pollution and climate change are accelerating degradation of the oceans.
Chemicals, plastics and air pollution are choking land, water and air, while planetary heating brought about by burning fossil fuels are causing climate chaos — from heatwaves and forest fires to droughts and floods.
“We are treating nature like a toilet,” Guterres said bluntly.
“And ultimately, we are committing suicide by proxy” he added — with the impacts felt on jobs, hunger, disease and death.
Economic losses from ecosystem degradation, meanwhile, are estimated to stand at $3 trillion annually from 2030.
Ahead of the talks, AFP spoke to Elizabeth Mrema, the head of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), who said failure was not an option.
“For the Paris agreement to succeed, biodiversity also has to succeed. For climate to succeed, nature has to succeed, and that’s why we have to deal with them together,” she said.
Draft targets for the 10-year framework include a cornerstone pledge to protect 30 percent of the world’s land and seas by 2030, eliminating harmful fishing and agriculture subsidies, tackling invasive species and reducing pesticides.
The new goal will rely heavily on the involvement of Indigenous peoples, who steward land that is home to around 80 percent of Earth’s remaining biodiversity.
Divisions have already emerged on the key issue of financing, with wealthy countries under pressure to funnel more money to developing nations for conservation.
Hopes have already been tempered by the absence of world leaders: Canada’s Trudeau will be the only in attendance.
COP15 is currently chaired by China, but it is not hosting the meeting because of the Covid pandemic.