The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Basic Sciences category goes, in this seventh edition, to Professor Stephen Buchwald, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for the development of catalytic routes based on palladium and copper to construct carbon-nitrogen and carbon-carbon bonds in molecules. This advance has had great impact on the fields of organic synthesis, and organometallic and materials chemistry.
Stephen Buchwald played a key role in bringing catalytic cross-coupling methods of carbon heteroatom bond construction to the forefront of organic chemistry. The Buchwald ligand is an electron-rich and air-stable ligand that yields an efficient catalyst. This makes it possible to carry out the cross-coupling reaction at an industrial scale leading to the efficient synthesis of modern pharmaceuticals and compounds for agriculture use. This chemistry has now been applied to the creation of drugs for numerous diseases including many forms of cancer, AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation and diabetes.
The synthesis of many new small molecule drugs now relies on Buchwald’s powerful chemical reactions. His work on ligands and mechanistic studies have also led to carbon-fluorine and aromatic carbon-trifluoromethyl coupling processes. This further expands the possibilities for making new molecules.