Stephen L. Buchwald
Wolf Prize Laureate in Chemistry 2019
Stephen L. Buchwald
Affiliation at the time of the award:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA
“for developing efficient transition-metal catalysts which form carbon-heteroatom bonds, thus transforming the way drug molecules are manufactured, for the benefit of humankind”.
Stephen L. Buchwald was born (1955) in Bloomington, Indiana. He received his Sc.B. degree from Brown University. and his doctorate from Harvard University. He was a Myron A. Bantrell post-doctoral fellow at Caltech with Professor Robert H. Grubbs where he studied titanocene methylenes as reagents in organic synthesis and the mechanism of Ziegler-Natta polymerization. In 1984, he began as an assistant professor of chemistry Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) He was promoted to the associate professor (1989), to professor (1993), and was named the Camille Dreyfus Professor in 1997. In 2015, he became associate head of the Chemistry Department. During his time at MIT, he has received numerous honors, including the Harold Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award of MIT, an Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award, the 2000 Award in Organometallic Chemistry from the American Chemical Society, a MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health and many more.
The development of palladium-catalyzed carbon-carbon bond formation by Prof. Heck, Prof. Negishi and Prof. Suzuki, resulted in the 2010 Nobel Prize for this innovation. This achievement underscored the immense importance of making new chemical bonds, and at the same time it created an urgent need for going beyond carbon-carbon bonds. This is precisely the achievement of Prof. Buchwald and Prof. Hartwig who have independently harnessed cross coupling for the making of carbon-heteroatom bonds. These bonds and especially the carbon-nitrogen bonds are immensely important, because such bonds constitute a very basis of medicinal chemistry. Thus, the two laureates have pioneered the development of transition metal catalyzed procedures that are broadly applicable and allow carbon-heteroatom bonds of all sorts to be formed with previously unknown efficiency and precision.
In so doing, Profs. Buchwald and Hartwig have profoundly impacted the practice of organic synthesis in general and medicinal chemistry in particular. The transformative nature of their achievement has changed the way whereby ever-more-efficient drugs are discovered and eventually manufactured, for the extensive benefit of society today and in the future. This breakthrough is the fruit of truly basic research and fundamental mechanistic investigations into ligand design and the elementary steps that transition metal complexes are able to entertain. These methodologies proved to be truly potent and represent, as such, a lasting legacy for the art and science of catalysis, and the prime justification for awarding Buchwald and Hartwig with the Wolf Prize for 2019.