Ryoji Noyori
  • 2001 Nobel Prize in Chemistry


2001 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
An influential organic chemist in Japan, professor at Nagoya University and former President of RIKEN. In 2001, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for his work on chirally catalysed hydrogenation reactions", along with William Knowles and Barry Sharpless.

Education and Work Experience

1967, Dr. Eng., Kyoto University
1972-2003, Professor, Nagoya University 2003-2015, President, RIKEN
2015-Present, Director of Center for Research and Development Strategy, Japan Science and Technology Agency

Honors and Awards

2001, Wolf Prize in Chemistry 2001, Nobel Prize in Chemistry
2003, Foreign Associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences 2005, Foreign Member of the Royal Society (ForMemRS)

Major Academic Achievements

Many molecules are chirally-existed in two structural forms (enantiomers) that are nonsuperimposable mirror images. Likewise, the receptors, enzymes, and other cellular components made from these molecules are chiral and tend to interact selectively with only one or two enantiomers of a given substance. For many drugs, however, conventional laboratory synthesis results in a mixture of enantiomers. One form usually has the desired effect while the other form may be inactive or cause undesirable side effects, such as occurred with the drug thalidomide. This problem led scientists to pursue chiral catalysts, which drive chemical reactions toward just one of two possible outcomes. Based on the work of Knowles, Noyori began developing more general asymmetrical hydrogen catalysts in the 1980s. His catalysts had broader applications, could produce larger proportions of the desired enantiomer, and were suitable for large-scale industrial applications. They found wide use in the synthesis of antibiotics and other pharmaceutical products. At present, many chemical products, drugs and new materials are manufactured thanks to Ryoji Noyori’s research.