Scripps Institute Chemists Defy Convention to Speed Syntheses

When synthesizing chemicals made via natural processes, organic chemists usually use "shielding groups" to protect reactive portions of the molecules involved. These groups are later removed, but they have reactivities of their own, and  add complexity to any synthesis.  At the Scripps Research Institute, chemist Phil Baran and colleagues have found a way to eliminate these "middlemen" and harness reactivity within the molecules to improve selectivity in the synthesis of naturally occurring chemicals.  Using their new approach, they were able to produce gram quantities of synthetic versions of natural chemicals produced by cyanobacteria in less than 10 steps, where, traditionally, the synthesis would have required 30 steps and resulted in milligram quantities.  Nature has just published their results today, but non-chemists can access the "Cliff Notes" summary, abstract and press release here, from This could have implications for some pharmaceutical syntheses; API syntheses can be extremely (and some would argue, unnecessarily) complex.  For more on this, read Girish Malhotra's piece and a related article he later wrote for one of our competitors. -AMS