Synthetic organic chemistry is the critical foundation for the medical application of many complex organic molecules (i.e., natural products or drug molecules); it is the only way to produce these complex molecules in sufficient quantities for studies or clinical and commercial use. Moreover, synthetic chemistry enables the design and the preparation of novel drug molecules that can be used to study fundamental biological pathways or change the course of various diseases.
More than three quarters of known organic molecules and the overwhelming majority of currently used drug molecules contain heterocycles, yet the number of highly efficient methods to prepare these types of compounds is surprisingly low. I plan to address this deficiency in my research program, which will have a dual focus. On the one hand, my group will develop novel catalytic enantioselective transformations and apply these reactions for the rapid assembly of various heterocycles and carbocycles. On the other hand, these hetero- and carbocyclic motifs are present in numerous natural products with potent biological activities; therefore we will have the opportunity to design and quickly prepare a large number of derivatives and screen them in a variety of assays to identify new drug leads. These newly developed methods will also allow the enantioselective preparation of other highly functionalized compounds that may be utilized for the catalysis of dozens of organic transformations.
My research program does not only seek to develop new and powerful transformations in organic chemistry and enable the synthesis of biologically relevant compounds to aid drug discovery, but it also provides an excellent platform for the education and training of both undergraduate and graduate students. The strongly interdisciplinary environment in the BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC) at Rice University allows my research group to pursue these goals and find many opportunities for fruitful collaboration.