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Published:  6 Oct 2021

Prestigious Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021 goes to MSCA supervisors

2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry winners enter the gallery of MSCA scientists and supervisors who have received the high-profile award. 

Sketch of Nobel Prize winners Benjamin List and David MacMillan

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021 awarded to Benjamin List and David MacMillan, both of whom have participate in Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Individual Fellowship projects.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Science awarded the prestigious science price worth EUR980,000 ‘for their development of a precise new tool for molecular construction: organocatalysis.

Described as “an ingenious tool for building molecules”, the process they each invented independently at around the same time in 2000 is having a considerable impact on pharmaceutical research, and makes chemistry more ecologically friendly.

It is by no means the first Nobel Prize for MSCA researchers and supervisors, the flagship programme of Horizon 2020.

The MSCA and the Nobel Prize

The MSCA offers scientists the opportunity to advance their research and careers.

Many MSCA researchers have had the chance to work alongside Nobel Prize Laureates, whilst others have been personally honoured with this world-famous award, which highlights their extraordinary contributions to both the scientific community and to society.


Nobel Prize in Chemistry, awarded to Benjamin List and David MacMillan.


Nobel Prize in Chemistry, awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier (Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens). She is an MSCA alumna and principal investigator involved in the training of young researchers in the field of genomics in the MSCA project ENLIGHT-TEN ITN.

Dr Charpentier received the award alongside Dr. Jennifer A. Doudna ‘for the development of a method for genome editing’, CRISPR/Cas9.


Nobel Prize in Physics, awarded for the work of Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne ‘for their decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves’.

The MSCA project GraWIToN involved nine MSCA fellows who contributed to the preparation of the data on gravitational waves.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry, to Richard Henderson (Medical Research Council), the coordinator of the MSCA project Membrane Proteases. His work was honoured along with Jacques Dubochet and Joachim Frank ‘for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution’.


Nobel Prize in Chemistry, awarded to Bernard Feringa, Jean-Pierre Sauvage and J. Fraser Stoddart. Bernard Feringa (University of Groningen) is the scientist who was in charge and supervisor of several MSCA projects such as ALERT while Jean-Pierre Sauvage (University of Strasbourg) was the supervisor for the MSCA projects NANO-PRESSES and FEMOS.

They received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with J. Fraser Stoddart ‘for the design and synthesis of molecular machines’.


Nobel Prize in Physics, awarded to Takaaki Kajita (University of Tokyo) who was involved in MSCA projects as a participant. He earned the Nobel Prize ‘for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass’.

The Japanese researcher has participated in several MSCA projects promoting international collaboration, such as ELITES, SKPLUS and InvisiblesPlus.


Stefan W. Hell (Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg) was an MSCA fellow at the University of Turku in 1996-1997. He then coordinated several MSCA Individual Fellowships prior to receiving the Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Eric Betzig and William E. Moerner ‘for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy’.

Edvard I. Moser and May-Britt Moser (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim) are former MSCA project coordinators. The two Norwegians received a Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology alongside John O’Keefe ‘for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain’.

Jean Tirole (Toulouse School of Economics) was a supervisor of the MSCA project MASIEGE. He received the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel ‘for his analysis of market power and regulation’.


James Rothman (Yale School of Medicine) was a supervisor in the MSCA project BFLDs. He received the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine alongside Randy W. Schekman and Thomas C. Südhof ‘for their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells’.

Several fellows from the MSCA projects ITN ACEOLE, ITN TALENT, COFUND CERN, COFUND CERN 2010 and LHC-PHYS were directly or indirectly involved in the revolutionary sub-atomic particle discovery of the Higgs Boson.

This discovery led to the award of the Nobel Prize in Physics to François Englert and Peter W. Higgs.

Tagged in:  MSCA
Published:  6 Oct 2021