Chemistry and Biochemistry

Improving Large-Scale Synthesis of Natural Products

Posted: Jul 15, 2011

BYU alumni Spencer B. Jones and Bryon Simmons just published an article in Nature with their mentor from Princeton University, Dr. David MacMillan and another student in MacMillan’s research group.

Jones and Simmons are the first and second authors of the article, published July 14 (online publication July 13). In the article, the authors present their research on improving large-scale synthesis of natural products.

“The field of natural product total synthesis has evolved dramatically over the past 60 years owing substantially to the efforts of strategy-based organic chemists along with remarkable improvements in our bond-forming capabilities. However, two critical challenges that remain for this field are those of translating laboratory-level academic success in total synthesis to the large-scale assembly of biologically important molecules and building large collections of natural product families (or their analogues) for use as biological probes or in medicinal chemistry,” the introduction to the article states. “To address these two fundamental challenges in small-molecule synthesis, we have been inspired by the strategies used in nature to solve these problems.”

Jones’ and Simmons’ article demonstrates how two “nature-inspired techniques, namely organocascade catalysis and collective natural product synthesis, can facilitate the preparation of useful quantities of a range of structurally diverse natural products from a common molecular scaffold,” according to the abstract.

In other words, they are working to bridge the gap between synthesizing a small amount of product in an academic lab and synthesizing a larger, more useful amount for practical use in medicinal chemistry.

Jones, who graduated from BYU with a B.S. in Chemistry in 2006, just earned his Ph.D. from Princeton this year and is currently working as a research scientist in Indianapolis, according to Dr. MacMillan’s website.

Simmons, who graduated from BYU with a B.S. in Chemistry in 2002 and later earned a Master of Science degree from Princeton, obtained his Ph.D. from Princeton in 2010 and is currently working in New Jersey as a research scientist for Merck & Company, Inc., the BYU Alumni Directory states.

By Jessica Henrie