The Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize recognizes major scientific discoveries

Solvay Prize

The 2020 Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize is awarded to Carolyn Bertozzi, Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University (U.S.A.), for her invention of bioorthogonal chemical reactions that can be performed in living cells and organisms. These reactions can be used to label specific molecules in cells for imaging, for drug target identification and the creation of next-generation biotherapeutics – ultimately helping to diagnose and treat diseases in the long term, particularly in cancer and infectious diseases.

The Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize recognizes major scientific discoveries with the potential to shape tomorrow’s chemistry and help human progress. Created in 2013, the Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize perpetuates Ernest Solvay’s, lifelong support of and passion for scientific research. Our objective is to endorse basic research and highlight the essential role of chemistry, both as a science and an industry, in helping solve some of the world’s most pressing issues. Every two years, the most promising project is awarded a €300,000 prize. This Solvay Prize was first awarded to Professor Peter G. Schultz, in 2015 to Professor Ben Feringa (the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry), and to Professor Susumu Kitagawa in 2017.


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Selection process

Who better to nominate tomorrow’s brightest minds, than today’s most eminent scientists. They hail from prestigious science institutions, chemical associations and past and present Advisory Committees and Scientific Committees for Chemistry of International Solvay Institutes. They include previous laureates of the Prize, guests of Solvay Conferences in Chemistry and other distinguished individuals.

This illustrious nomination committee first proposes external candidates whose achievements in the field of chemistry – biochemistry, material sciences, soft matter, biophysics and chemical engineering – will shape the chemistry of the future.

From this list of candidates, the international jury then selects the winner of the Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize.


Meet the jury

From left to right: Pr Paul Chaikin,  Pr Anne De Wit, Pr Jean-Marie Lehn, Pr Geraldine Richmond, Pr Alan Fersht, Pr Susumu Kitagawa, Dr Patrick Maestro, Pr Håkan Wennerström

Håkan Wennerström, President of the jury, is Professor of theoretical and physical chemistry at the University of Lund (Sweden). Professor Wennerström is a former chairman of the jury for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Paul Chaikin, Professor of Physics at the New York University (U.S.A.) specializes in solid state physics, in particular soft matter.

Alan Fersht, A chemist at the laboratory of Molecular Biology and an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge (U. K.). Professor Fersht works on protein folding and is widely regarded as one of the main pioneers in the field. 

Jean-Marie Lehn, Professor at the Institut d’Etudes Avancées de l’Université de Strasbourg and Professor emeritus at the Collège de France in Paris. Professor Lehn, an early innovator in the field of supramolecular chemistry, received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his synthesis of cryptands.

Susumu Kitagawa, Distinguished Professor of Kyoto University Institute for Advanced Study and Director of the Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences at Kyoto University. Professor Kitagawa is a pioneer and leading scientist in the field of metal organic frameworks (MOFs). He was awarded the third Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize.  

Géraldine Richmond, the Presidential Chair in Science and Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oregon (U.S.A.). Professor Richmond conducts fundamental research to understand the chemistry and physics of complex surfaces and interfaces.


Meet the contributing Solvay Science advisers:

Anne De Wit, Full Professor in the Chemistry Department at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium). She is the scientific secretary of the international scientific committee for chemistry of the International Solvay Institutes for Physics and Chemistry. 

Patrick Maestro, Member of the Académie des Technologies in France and Scientific Director of Solvay, was at the origin of the creation of several joint teams between Solvay, CNRS and universities worldwide.