In 2016 the most important research award in Germany goes to Benjamin List, Director at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung. This was announced by the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft). Benjamin List receives the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize for his work in the field of Organocatalysis. He leads the Department of Homogenous Catalysis whose scientists search for new reactions and develop new concepts for catalysis. This research aims at inventing strategies for the development of “perfect chemical reactions” that combine quantitative yield and high atom economy, without requiring toxic solvents, protecting groups, heating, cooling, or inert gas atmosphere. This ultimate goal is approached by using small organic molecules as selective catalysts.
In recent years it has been demonstrated that such organocatalysts can be as efficient and selective as the more commonly used metal-based catalysts, which has resulted in an “explosive” research activity in this new and exciting area of Organocatalysis.
Walter Thiel, Managing Director at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, congratulates Benjamin List cordially: “This is very good news for the Institute, and we all share Ben`s happiness.” The champagne bottles need to stay chilled a little longer, however, because at the moment Benjamin List is on a lecture tour in the United States. He is already the fourth Leibniz award winner at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung. Before him Manfred T. Reetz, Alois Fürstner, and Ferdi Schüth received the prize.
The Max Planck Institut für Kohlenforschung was founded in 1912, making it one of the Max Planck Society's oldest institutes. The Institute's activities are centered on research into energy- and resource-saving chemical reactions, with the focus on catalysis in all of its aspects.
From the press release of the DFG
The DFG announces on their website that the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize for Benjamin List honors a highly innovative and worldwide renowned chemist who established a completely new field of catalysis. As a young Assistant Professor, List discovered the proline-catalyzed intermolecular aldol reaction. This was one of the foundations of organocatalysis, which employs natural products rather than metal complexes as catalysts in chemical synthesis and other industrial key technologies. Organic catalysts are usually less toxic than standard metal-based catalysts and easier to retrieve. Therefore they contribute to a more sustainable and resource-efficient chemistry.
The award winner Benjamin List
Benjamin List was born in 1968 and studied chemistry at the Free University Berlin. He wrote his Ph.D. Thesis about the synthesis of substructures of vitamin B12 at the University of Frankfurt with Johann Mulzer. Therafter he was Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla in the US, where he became Assistant Professor in 1999. In 2003 he returned to Germany as group leader at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung. In 2004 he accepted an Honorary Professorship at the University of Cologne. Since 2005 he is Director at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung. Benjamin List was already honored with several awards including the Cope Scholar Award, the Mukaiyama Award, the Otto-Bayer-Preis, and an ERC Advanced Grant.
The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize
The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize is the most important research award in Germany. The Leibniz Program, established in 1985, aims to improve the working conditions of outstanding researchers, expand their research opportunities, relieve them of administrative tasks, and help them employ particularly qualified early career researchers. A maximum of €2.5 million is provided per award. Prizewinners are first chosen from a slate of nominations put forward by third parties; the final selection is made by the Joint Committee on the basis of a recommendation from the Leibniz Nominations Committee.