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Pushing the boundaries of scientific discovery

Pushing the boundaries of scientific discovery

Industry news 14/10/2022

While many of us at Secerna are patent attorneys by profession, all the attorneys and trainees come from a scientific background. We share a passion for science that still persists, and part of the reason many of us chose to work in the field of intellectual property law was to stay at the forefront of new technologies and scientific discoveries.

This is why the annual Nobel Prize awards are always something we watch with interest. Last week saw the Nobel Foundation announce the winners of the 2022 Nobel Prizes for Chemistry, Physics and Physiology or Medicine. Here’s a closer look at the work that has earned awards this year.

Nobel Prize for Chemistry

Carolyn R Betozzi (Stanford University), Morten Meldal (University of Copenhagen), K. Barry Sharpless (Scripps Research, La Jolla)

For the development of click chemistry and biorthogonal chemistry

Barry Sharpless and Morten Meldal have laid the foundation for a functional form of chemistry – click chemistry – where molecular building blocks snap together quickly and efficiently. Carolyn Bertozzi has taken click chemistry to a new dimension and started utilising it in living organisms.

The concept of click chemistry makes use of a collection of organic reactions that proceed rapidly and selectively under mild conditions to covalently link molecular compounds together. The best-known of these reactions is probably copper-catalysed azide-alkyne cycloaddition. This is an efficient chemical reaction that is now in widespread use and utilised in the development of pharmaceuticals and mapping DNA - amongst other things. In the reaction, molecule one is linked to an azide group (N3) and molecule two to an alkyne and the azide through a triazole ring.

There are many other reactions that can be used in this way to conjugate molecules together, many of them derived from natural biological processes.

These reactions are now used globally to explore cells and track biological processes. Using these biorthogonal reactions has allowed researchers to improve the targeting of cancer pharmaceuticals, which are now being tested in clinical trials.

Nobel Prize for Physics

Alain Aspect (Institut d’Optique Graduate School – Universite Paris), John F Clauser (J.F. Clauser & Assoc), Anton Zeilinger (University of Vienna)

Entangled states- from theory to technology

Alain Aspect, John F Clauser and Anton Zeilinger have each carried out ground-breaking experiments using entangled quantum states, in which two or more particles act like a single unit, even when they are separated by a great distance. For example, if one particle was in Australia and one particle in the UK, then determining the state of the UK particle would immediately determine the state of the Australia particle, even though it was impossible to know the exact states of these particles prior to the measurement.

For decades, it was not certain whether this correlation between particles could be attributed to hidden variables associated with the particles which told them what to do when measured. However, the three new Noble laureates conducted ground-breaking experiments to show it is quantum entanglement that must be at play as they showed violations of Bell’s inequality.

Quantum entanglement is beginning to find more and more practical applications in the field of quantum information processing, such as quantum computers and quantum cryptography, and so it is satisfying to see recognition of these achievements.

Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine

Svante Pääbo (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)

For his discoveries concerning the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution

Dr Pääbo sequenced the nuclear genome of Neanderthal, a species of humans that became extinct around 30,000 years ago, achieving something that was previously thought to be impossible.

Using a 40,000-year-old piece of bone found in the Denisova cave in Siberia, Dr Pääbo was able to sequence its DNA. The DNA sequence was unique compared to the known sequences from Neanderthals and humans, leading to the discovery of a previously unknown hominin, the Denisovans.

The work carried out by Dr Pääbo has led to the creation of an entirely new scientific discipline, paleogenomics.

Our team stays at the forefront of developments in science and technology. If you would like to see how this expertise can help you protect your intellectual assets, contact us today.