The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021 was awarded jointly to Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan “for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis”

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Independently of each other, Benjamin List and David MacMillan had discovered an entirely new concept for catalysis. MacMillan has coined the term organocatalysis. Since 2000, developments in this area can almost be likened to a gold rush, in which List and MacMillan maintain leading positions. They have designed multitudes of cheap and stable organocatalysts, which can be used to drive a huge variety of chemical reactions.

Although the Nobel-prize laureates have not published on cyclodextrins, the topic is familiar for the cyclodextrin chemists. Asymmetric organocatalysis by using cyclodextrins has attracted many CD researchers. In a Scopus search the number of hits for the keywords: organocatalysis + cyclodextrin was 229, and asymmetric + organocatalysis + cyclodextrin was 195 (Oct 7, 2021). The aim of application of CD is often to get enantioenriched product: enantioselective + organocatalysis + cyclodextrin keywords gave 186 hits.

The CDs as enzyme mimicks were thoroughly studied already 50 years ago by Breslow (Breslow, R.; Overman, L. E. “Artificial enzyme” combining a metal catalytic group and a hydrophobic binding cavity. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1970, 92, 1075. About Ronald Breslow, read: Joseph, V., Levine, M. Ronald C.D. Breslow (1931–2017): A career in review. Bioorg. Chem. 115, 2021,

In a ppt of MacMillan’s group CDs as scaffolds for biomimetic catalysis are presented:

Some recent reviews discussing also CD-based catalysis are recommended to read:

Dong, Z., Luoa, Q., Liu, J. Artificial enzymes based on supramolecular scaffolds. Chem. Soc. Rev., 2012, 41, 7890-7908. (featured image is the graphical abstract of this paper)

Macaev, F.; Boldescu, V. Cyclodextrins in Asymmetric and Stereospecific Synthesis. Symmetry 20157, 1699-1720.

Oliveira, V.d.G.; Cardoso, M.F.d.C.; Forezi, L.d.S.M. Organocatalysis: A Brief Overview on Its Evolution and Applications. Catalysts 20188, 605.

van der Helm, M.P., Klemm, B. & Eelkema, R. Organocatalysis in aqueous media. Nat Rev Chem 2019, 3491–508.

Péter Kisszékelyi , Sándor Nagy , Zsuzsanna Fehér , Péter Huszthy and József Kupai Membrane-Supported Recovery of Homogeneous Organocatalysts: A Review. Chemistry 2020, 2, 742–758;

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