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Members of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry announce the winners of the 2021 Nobel Prize in chemistry in Stockholm on Oct. 6. Photo: Jonathan Nickstrand/AFP via Getty Images

Benjamin List and David MacMillan won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for their development of asymmetric organocatalysis, an "ingenious tool" to build molecules, the Nobel Foundation announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: Catalysts are used to accelerate chemical reactions and are crucial to producing many commercial products, especially pharmaceuticals. Before List's and MacMillan's discoveries, researchers believed that there were just two types of catalysts available: metals and enzymes.

  • They both independently discovered a third type of catalysis called asymmetric organocatalysis, which works by encouraging chemicals to build upon a framework of carbon atoms, eventually producing new molecules.

What they're saying: “This concept for catalysis is as simple as it is ingenious, and the fact is that many people have wondered why we didn’t think of it earlier,” said Johan Åqvist, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry.

The big picture: Organocatalysis has developed at an astounding speed since List's and MacMillan's discoveries.

  • It is used in many chemical reactions, including the production of new pharmaceuticals and molecules that can capture light in solar cells.
  • MacMillan is a professor at Princeton University, and List is the director of the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research in Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany.

Go deeper: Nobel Prize awarded for research on how humans feel temperature and touch

Go deeper

Oct 8, 2021 - World

Journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov awarded Nobel Peace Prize

Maria Ressa (L) and Dmitry Muratov. Photos: Dimitrios Kambouris/TIME; Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

Dissident journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov were awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression," which the Nobel Committee described as "a precondition for democracy and lasting peace."

  • Ressa, who co-founded the Philippine news site Rappler in 2012, has been prosecuted for her reporting on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his government's deadly anti-drug campaign.
  • Muratov is the founder of Novaya Gazeta, described by the committee as "the most independent newspaper in Russia today."

SEC debunks conspiracy theories about meme stock mania

Photo: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The SEC issued its long-awaited report on the meme stock mania, which downplayed the narrative that a "short squeeze" was the primary driver behind GameStop's historic stock moves — and shot down conspiracy theories about the event.

Why it matters: The postmortem was highly anticipated, largely because of what it could hint about what the regulator thinks should be done in wake of the saga. But the report stopped short of specific policy recommendations.

Breaking Biden's diplomatic logjam

Expand chart
Data: Center for Presidential Transition via Congress.gov; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

The logjam for reviewing and confirming President Biden's ambassadorial picks is finally starting to break.

Why it matters: Biden is far behind his predecessors in the rate at which his ambassadorial picks have been confirmed. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a series of high-profile hearings and votes this week to finally begin chipping away at the backlog.

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