Professor Marios Mavronicolas’ Speech to the award ceremony for the Nemitsas Prize in Chemistry on 7 October 2014 at the Presidential Palace

Your Excellency, Mr President of the Republic,
Your Beatitude,
Your Reverence,
Your Excellency, Mr Ex-President of the Republic,
Honorable Ministers,
Dear Ambassadors,
Most Distinguished Guests,

Good Evening.

Today my pleasure is great since I have the honor and the privilege to present to you, on behalf of the Takis & Louki Nemitsas Foundation, the work and the personality of Professor Kyriacos Nicolaou, who is awarded tonight the 2014 Nemitsas Prize in Chemistry.

Kyriacos Constantinou Nicolaou was born in Karavas, Cyprus, on July 5, 1946. He attended the Elementary School of Karavas, the Greek Gymnasium of Lapithos and the Pancyprium Gymnasium of Nicosia, from which he graduated in 1964.

At the age of 18 he moved to England where he received the Batchelor’s degree in Chemistry from the Bedford College of the University of London in 1969. In the sequel he was awarded the Ph.D. degree in Chemistry from University College London in 1972.

Dr. Kyriacos Nicolaou traversed next the Atlantic Ocean to complete his postgraduate studies at two of the brightest universities of the United States: Columbia University and Harvard University. The independent scientific career of Kyriacos Nicolaou was developed quite rapidly since then.

The academic career of Kyriacos Nicolaou had its start in 1976 when he was appointed as faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania in the States, where he eventually became the Rhodes-Thompson Professor of Chemistry. In 1989 Professor Kyriacos Nicolaou moved to California as the Founding President of the Scripps Research Institute and simultaneously as a Professor of Chemistry at the University of California at San Diego, positions which he possessed simultaneously till 2013. In 1996 he was appointed as the Aline W. and L. S. Skaggs Professor of Chemical Biology at Skaggs Institute, which is part of the Scripps Research Institute. In 2013 Kyriacos Nicolaou moved to Rice University, in Houston of Texas to be appointed as the Harry C. and Olga K. Wiess Professor of Chemistry, a position he is today holding.

So, the intellect and excellent insight and personality guided Kyriacos Nicolaou in his long trip originating from Karavas of Cyprus and leading him to positions of highest prestige at some of the most important academic and research institutions of America.

Professor Kyriacos Nicolaou is internationally recognized as a leading figure and scientific personality in Synthetic Chemistry, the branch of Chemistry dealing with the laboratory synthesis of chemical compounds from simpler constituents. In particular Professor Nicolaou is conducting research on the total synthesis of natural products with complex structure.

In more details, Professor Nicolaou is eminent through his innovative discoveries of novel methods and strategies for the synthesis and preparation of complex molecules that enjoy foremost biological, pharmaceutical and medical significance. With his discoveries Professor Kyriacos Nicolaou has enriched vastly the on-the-shelf collection of synthetic organic chemical and pharmaceutical chemicals.

The innovative molecules synthesized by Kyriacos Nicolaou in his research laboratories are molecules that appear, at first glimpse, as being impossible to synthesize. These synthesized molecules are but the result of Kyriacos’ brave personal approach to synthesis, an approach traversing through the conceptualization and development of new methodological and complex strategies. Part of the contribution of Professor Nicolaou has been the introduction, development and use of methods and techniques from combinatorial Chemistry, which result to a spectacular speed up of the rate of discovery of the optimal synthesis path to a molecule-target.

As the most representative research successes of Professor Kyriacos Nicolaou in Synthetic Chemistry, I will restrict myself, due to lack of time and only, to mention only two such discoveries, those of the anticancer drugs of Taxol and Calicheamicin.

Taxol is one of the most, if not the most, widely used anticancer drugs today. It was discovered from the Pacific Yew tree in 1971, but its establishment as a drug in the pharmaceutical industry was delayed due to its low solubility and scarcity in the natural feedstock. Because of its experienced effectiveness against cancer, Taxol became very quickly a most promising anticancer agent. Thus it became the «apple of discord» with numerous research groups around the globe competing for its total synthesis in the laboratory. The thread was cut by the research group of Professor Kyriacos Nicolaou who achieved to publish, for the first time in 1994, the total synthesis of Taxol. Today Taxol, together with other relative molecules that were synthesized and are known as Taxenes, are used with extreme effectiveness against a variety of cancers.

Calicheamicin is the prime example of a cytotoxic agent (in fact, the first such) to be placed on an approved antibacteroid drug conjugate for the purpose of targeted cure of cancer. It would be an omission to skip mentioning vancomycine, a drug representing the current state-of-the-art as far as antibacteria drugs are concerned. The total synthesis of vancomycine was also achieved in the labs of Professor Kyriacos Nicolaou and counts as one of his foremost successes.

Kyriacos Nicolaou is quite justifiably classified, on the ground of his intense and successful research activity which personally characterizes him, as one of the international giants in Chemistry. He has published more than 760 research papers in top international journals of his field and in refereed proceedings of first-class international conferences. He is the holder of more than 60 patents.

In more than 38 years of his enriched academic career, and in parallel to his distinguished scientific work, Professor Kyriacos Nicolaou has established himself, as a most successful university teacher inspiring students all around the globe and creating unprecedented stimuli to spirit through his extraordinary and enlightening spirit, the simplicity of his scientific speech and the so personal way of introducing and walking his audience through the insides of his personal knowledge. He is the author of many successful textbooks and

reference books on Total Synthesis, such as the three-volume series titled Classics in Total Synthesis and the most recent Molecules that Changed the World. Since 1976 and till today Kyriacos Nicolaou has supervised a large number of doctoral dissertations.

In parallel to his vast research and teaching work Kyriacos Nicolaou has exceed himself as far as his most intense interest in supporting and highlighting young scientists who are being educated in his research laboratories is concerned. Cyprus is represented quite successfully by many excellent scientists in the international scientific community of Chemistry. A substantial cause of this success owes to the influence and impact exercised by Kyriacos Nicolaou on the Cypriot scientists of Chemistry, either directly through teaching, supervision of doctoral theses and collaboration in publications or indirectly, with Kyriacos being the prime example of a bright scholer to mimic.

From 1976 till today Kyriacos Nicolaou has delivered more than 100 keynote lectures as invited speaker at universities and research institutes worldwide. He has been honored with dozens of international prizes and honorary distinctions such as, to mention a few representative ones, the Chemical Pioneer Award from the American Institute of Chemistry, the Max Tishler Prize from Harvard University, the Centenary Medal from the Royal Society of Chemistry, The Benjamin Franklin Medal in Chemistry from the Franklin Institute, and the Einstein Professorship from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. He is a Member of the Academy of Sciences of New York, and the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. He is also a Corresponding Member of the Academy of Athens.

Even though the bulk of the professional career of Kyriacos Nicolaou lies in the United States of America, he is maintaining a most vival interest and activity in his home country Cyprus. Kyriacos is very often visiting Cyprus, where he is regularly delivering lectures and seminars. In general he is responding with remarkable willingness to invitations for lectures, seminars and committee participation in his home country Cyprus. In 1997 he was honored as the first recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from the School of Pure and Applied Sciences of the University of Cyprus. (This was the first out of eight Honorary Doctorates Kyriacos has been awarded till today). In 2010 Kyriacos received the Science Prize from the Ministry of Education and Culture of the University of Cyprus.

We hope, Kyriacos, that your current award with the 2014 Nemitsas Prize will further strengthen your bonds with us living in this remote corner of Europe, in the divided city of Nicosia.

To sum up the work and the personality of Kyriacos Nicolaou, I feel very proud to declare that all is about a very top, talented and gifted, multidimensional human entity who, through his research work, honors Cyprus internationally.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

in closing, please allow me to say, without any trace of exaggeration, that today, through the award of the Nemitsas Prize 2014 to Professor Kyriacos Nicolaou which will be awarded in a few minutes by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Cyprus, in this decent ceremony, The Takis and Louki Nemitsas Foundation is honoring Kyriacos Nicolaou for his contributions to Chemistry. But also Kyriacos Nicolaou is honoring through his presence here The Takis and Louki Nemitsas Foundation, and Cyprus at large.

Prominent man of Karavas, gifted scientist, mentor, colleague and friend Kyriaco, we all thank you very humbly for all you have contributed and for the honor you are carrying and transferring to all of us tonight.

Welcome to the group of the Takis and Louki Nemitsas Laureates.

7/10/2014 Professor Marios Mavronicolas