Jean-Marie Lehn is Professor at the University of Strasbourg Institute for Advanced Study (USIAS), Emeritus Professor at the University of Strasbourg, and Honorary Professor at the Collège de France in Paris. In 1968, he achieved the synthesis of cage-like molecules (cryptands) containing a cavity (crypt) into which another entity, molecule or ion of specific nature, can be lodged, forming a cryptate. This work expanded into the investigation of the chemical basis of “molecular recognition” (the way in which a receptor molecule recognises and selectively binds a substrate), which plays a fundamental role in biological processes. Over the years these studies led to the definition of a new field of chemistry, which he called “supramolecular chemistry”. It deals with the complex entities formed by the association of two or more chemical species held together by intermolecular forces.
In 1987, Jean Marie Lehn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, together with Donald Cram and Charles J. Pedersen.
Professor Lehn's work developed into the chemistry of self-organisation processes, based on the design of "programmed" chemical systems that undergo spontaneous assembly of suitable components into well-defined supramolecular species, directed by the supramolecular processing of molecular information. More recently, the implementation of dynamic features and of selection led to the development of “constitutional dynamic chemistry”, concerning entities able to undergo reorganisation in response to external stimuli, thus pointing to the emergence of an “adaptive and evolutive chemistry”.
Professor Lehn founded the Institute of Supramolecular Science and Engineering (ISIS) in Strasbourg in 2002. He has been involved in a large number of public and private boards and committees and also participated in several start-up companies. As president of the non-governmental International Organization for Chemical Sciences in Development (IOCD), he aims, together with a group of dedicated colleagues, to contribute to helping chemists in developing countries. He is the author of over 1000 scientific publications and two books, and member of many academies and institutions. He has received numerous international honours and awards, among them Officer of the French National Order of Merit (1993), Grand Officer of the French Legion of Honour (2014), Österreichisches Ehrenzeichen für Wissenschaft und Kunst, (Austrian Decoration for Science and Art -first class, 2001), the Grosses Verdienstkreuz mit Stern der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Knight Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany - 2009), and was conferred the Order of the Rising Sun, Second Class, Gold and Silver Star by the Government of Japan (2019).