Morten Meldal : from making rockets at the age of 16 to winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Meldal’s interest in this area of science, as he recounted in an exclusive interview with D+I — EL ESPAÑOL, goes back much further back, to his adolescence, when the researcher points out that he began to be passionate about how nature worked. As he explains, the need to understand evolutionary processes was what precipitated his introduction to Chemistry.
“That and the possibility of rockets and explosions, which seems very exciting when you’re 16 or 18,” he jokes.
More than 40 years later, the experiments that the Danish scientist carried out for fun turned into a prestigious career that has resulted in one of the highest recognition in this field, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Science.
“Normally, Chemistry is usually quite cumbersome”, begins Meldal, who explains that the processes carried out in this field are characterized by being quite elaborate, which complicates and slows down many of the investigations.
Specifically, this process consists of the efficient, fast, effective and selective union of molecules to give rise to more complex ones “as if they were Lego pieces”. The big difference is that traditional processes involve a series of consecutive reactions, while Click Chemistry consists of finding the reactions that allow us to reach the same final compounds with fewer synthesis steps.
“It has many applications, but there will be many more,” Meldal advances, during the interview, taking advantage of one of his lectures at the Ramón Areces Foundation.
According to D+I — EL ESPAÑOL, this process is currently being tested in clinics for the development of drugs for diseases such as fibrosis. However, he insists that “there are many possibilities in this methodology that go beyond drug discovery.”
Thus, it also represents an opportunity for other fields beyond medicine such as nanoscience or materials science. For example, in Germany, he explains, they are working on paints with the ability to “self-repair” through Click Chemistry.
A Nobel that rewards “the easy and simple”
The president of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, Johan Åqvist, stated during the award ceremony that, on that occasion, the prize is related to “not overcomplicating things, but working with what is easy and simple”, breaking the trend prior to betting on increasingly complicated and expensive processes.
Asked about these statements, Meldal explains that they have managed to make all the things that were “very complicated” suddenly become “very simple”, reducing processes that used to take two months to complete to just one day.