The 2009 international Chirality Medal has been awarded to Prof. Ben L. Feringa, Jacobus van ’t Hoff Distinguished Professor of Molecular Sciences at the University of Groningen. The Chirality Medal will be awarded at the Symposium on Chirality, which this year will be held in Colorado. Previous winners of this prestigious medal include Ryoji Noyori and K. Barry Sharpless, two chemists who were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2001 for their work on chiral catalysis.
The term chirality (from the Greek kheir, hand) is used by chemists to refer to the phenomenon that some molecules exist in two forms that are each other’s mirror image, just like a left and a right hand. With regard to medication, this difference can have major consequences for the effects of that substance. It is possible that one mirror image can have a healing effect and the other a particularly nasty side effect. The Thalidomide tragedy from the 1960s is often quoted as an example. Chemists, including Feringa, have conducted a lot of research into methods to create chemical compounds in such a way that there is only one mirror image. The light-driven molecular motor discovered by Feringa (1999, published in Nature) was also a result of research into chiral compounds.
Symposium on Chirality
The Feringa Group
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