Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
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Past Winner
2018 NSERC John C. Polanyi Award

NSERC John C. Polanyi Award

NSERC John C. Polanyi Award

Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences

University of Ottawa

We are closer to major breakthroughs in pharmaceuticals, agriculture, electronics, and biochemistry than one might think. Pesticides that are completely safe, new drugs that can treat our most pressing diseases, and the next-generation smartphone displays are all within our grasp—if we can build the right molecules.

Michael Organ, a researcher at the University of Ottawa, has developed a series of catalysts that are making it possible for researchers and companies to discover and design new drug treatments, materials, and agriculture products. Named PEPPSI (Pyridine-Enhanced Precatalyst Preparation, Stabilization, and Initiation), these catalysts are the key ingredients in the process chemists need to build new molecules. Organ and his team conduct their research at the most fundamental level, combing through the intricacies of chemical reactions to spot opportunities to tweak for improvement or simplicity. Organ’s PEPPSI catalysts are allowing researchers to bond materials that typically refuse to bond, kicking open the door to all sorts of possibilities for new products from a range of industries. These PEPPSI catalysts are already widely used in the pharmaceutical sector, and are now being used to discover novel organic light emitting diodes (OLED), the next-generation visual technology coming to TVs, computers, and smart devices.

Part of Organ’s goal is to develop chemical processes that are truly green, meaning they require as little energy and as few steps as possible to produce an outcome that results in little to no waste. He also knows that the smallest tweak can lead to serious advancements. That’s why, as part of his role as Director of the Centre for Catalysis Research and Innovation he is spearheading an open-source library of catalysts and processes, so research teams can gain access to a vast collection of data that may help them improve their own processes or find cleaner, more cost-effective, or safer alternatives.

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