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ACS names its 2023 Heroes of Chemistry

Chemists are recognized for their contributions to medicines and sustainable materials science

by Nina Notman, special to C&EN
July 19, 2023


An illustration of two people in lab coats projecting superhero-shaped shadows on a wall.
Credit: Shutterstock

Teams from AbbVie and Enanta Pharmaceuticals, Honeywell, Incyte, Merck & Co., Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and ViiV Healthcare have won the 2023 Heroes of Chemistry Award, the American Chemical Society’s highest honor for industrial chemical scientists.

Started in 1996, this program honors teams of industrial chemical scientists whose innovative work has led to the development of commercially successful products ingrained with chemistry for the benefit of humankind.

“The 2023 ACS Heroes of Chemistry demonstrate the unwavering dedication of chemists to propel us toward healthier lives and a greener tomorrow,” says ACS President Judith C. Giordan. “I am honored to recognize AbbVie [and Enanta], Honeywell, Incyte, Merck, Vertex and ViiV Healthcare for forging a future where scientists, chemistry, and innovation come together to uplift humanity.”

Teams from AbbVie and Enanta designed and developed the two antiviral agents in Mavyret, which treats chronic hepatitis C in adults and children. Mavyret is expected to play a key role eradicating this infection, which affects an estimated 58 million people worldwide.

The Honeywell team is celebrated for its role in developing Solstice LBA, a hydrofluoroolefin liquid blowing agent that doesn’t deplete the ozone layer and is a near-drop-in replacement for ozone-depleting hydrofluorocarbons in applications such as refrigeration and insulating foam.

The team from Incyte led the discovery and development of Jakafi, the first Janus Kinase inhibitor to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. The drug treats rare blood cancers polycythemia vera and myelofibrosis, as well as graft-versus-host disease, which occurs when the body rejects transplanted stem cells.

The Merck & Co. team is honored for its role in the development of Bridion, a novel reversal agent for skeletal muscle relaxants used during general anesthesia. It has fewer side effects than other medications used for the same purpose and is approved for this use in 95 countries.

The team from Vertex Pharmaceuticals developed Trikafta, a combination of three cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator modulators that target and correct the genetic defects that cause cystic fibrosis in 90% of people living with the disease.

The ViiV Healthcare team is recognized for its role in the discovery and development of Rukobia, a first-in-class attachment inhibitor that prevents HIV-1 from interacting with immune cells. This drug is approved in the US and Europe for people who have run out of other HIV treatment options.

The 2023 Heroes of Chemistry ceremony to honor the awardees will take place on Thursday, Oct. 12, at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia.


This story was updated on Aug. 1, 2023, to correct a company name. It is Vertex Pharmaceuticals, not Vertex Pharmaceutical.

This article was updated on Sept. 22, 2023, to note that Enanta Pharmaceuticals also received a Heroes of Chemistry Award.



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