Interview with 2021 Nobel laureate Benjamin List about Asymmetric Organocatalysis


Chiral organic molecules are essential for modern medicine. Chemists today are constantly looking for more efficient and environmentally friendly ways of preparing them. Organocatalysis helps the chemist design, a greener synthesis to leaders in the field of asymmetric organocatalysis. Benjamin list and kg murukku have edited to science of synthesis volumes on the topic. You’Ve been working in the field of asymmetric organocatalysis for about 12 years now, how is this area developed and what is the current status of it?

Now that’s an interesting question. I mean twelve years ago, the field of asymmetric organocatalysis, as a field basically was in existent, and this has so dramatically changed over the last decade or so now, they’re literally hundreds, if not thousands, of people working in this field, there’s hardly any pharmaceutical company, not using Organocatalysis anymore, at least on one or the other level, and I would say this is almost a little revolution in in asymmetric synthesis that is occurring right now. Considering the progress that has been made in this field, you must have felt that time is right for our comprehensive overview of the subject, as provided by the science of synthesis volumes on asymmetric organocatalysis yeah. Exactly there had been already, you know, books there have been special editions, they have been teaching courses, all sorts of things are now going on, but we felt that a really comprehensive treatment by the very best people in the field is track. Describing their own field was what was missing, and I think that was the intention of getting into into making this two volume set.

Okay, and what would you say is the overall goal of these volumes, so the the field, as I said, was growing like exponentially, even even explosively, people have said, but there is still, I guess, an element or certain degree of of not really understanding and appreciating the Field fully so people don’t really know, for example, how to classify organocatalysis there’s all these different reactions: ProLiant catalysis brands of acid catalysis. But how do we organize all this? How do we put this together, and this was for me, the main driving force in making this, because we cage America and I have have come up with a way of organizing the field? You know, based on a very simple definition, what is organocatalysis organocatalysis is the catalysis with small organic molecules where a metal is not part of the active principles and they function by either donating or removing electrons or protons. That’S all there is.

This is the whole field of organocatalysis, and this defines four distinct areas, namely branstad acids and bases. These are the catalysts that donate or remove protons and Lewis acids or Lewis bases. These are the catalysts that donate or remove electrons, and this defines the two volumes that we have. We have the brunstedt volume and the Lewis volume, and this wonderfully is suitable for organizing this entire field and giving it a real structure. And I think that’s a value for itself and what makes the science of synthesis volumes on asymmetric, organocatalysis, so valuable to the wider chemistry community.

So the way I came up with this you know, classification of organocatalysis was actually from teaching it. So I’m giving a course on organocatalysis at the University of Cologne since many years since 10 years now, and when you go in front of the students, you have to have some kind of organization, and so I came up with this idea of doing it. This way and the one thing I immediately immediately noticed you know when classifying organocatalysis is you find all of a sudden areas when nobody’s working on, for example, Lewis, acid catalysis, there’s very very little asymmetric Lewis, acid organocatalysis, and you can see this in the chapter and The corresponding it’s like the smallest we have in in the two volume set, and so we realize this, and that was for me and encouragement extra to start working in this area. So I think this really is inspiring. This organ is eight organized structure of this book and how do these volumes differ from previous treatments of the field?

First of all, of course it’s comprehensive, so you can use this, for example, for teaching, but it also has what science of synthesis always comes with. It has exponential procedures, it has evaluated methodologies only so you don’t even have to go to the original literature. To start your synthesis or project, you can straightaway take the book and start a synthetic reaction in the laboratory yeah. I think these are the main characteristic plus. I forgot even it’s it’s written by really the experts in their respective areas.

All the leaders of the field Macmillan has, for example, two chapters, one on the minimum iron catalysis, one on somo, catalysis, cage Amaro occurs, has written a chapter on phase transfer catalysis. So in brentd, acid catalysis, both Terada and Akiyama have a chapter – it’s really really written by the leaders in their respective areas. This is also true for all the other chapters so and this books use. How do you think these volumes will help organic chemists address the challenges of the future? Mmm?

That’S a good question. I hope they will. As I said before, I mean for me, this organized structure helps you were really in identifying things that are missing right now. I think one of the the hottest aspects of organocatalysis, even though it doesn’t sound so hard, is substrates, cope and, and to me this is really key in in in establishing new methodology in organic synthesis and from from from the organized way we have assembled this book. You can immediately identify you know what kind of substrates do not work with each other and that I think, helps scientists and, in you know, identifying great research topics to find out more about the science of synthesis two-volume set on asymmetric organocatalysis.

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