I am at the ACS National meeting in Dallas today, where I took part in the Symposium on Macrocycles. We had a good line-up of speakers, including W. van der Donk, S. Lokey, Allyn Londregan, Keith James, and myself. David Price of Pfizer organized this event, which was a great success (thanks David!). I am writing this post while waiting for David and Scott to go to a steakhouse.
Our event took place in the afternoon, but I woke up bright and early and went to the total synthesis symposium, where lectures were presented by graduate students. I always like to hear these kinds of talks because you get to see what actually happened. Today was no exception and there was a very well selected line-up. The talks were both informative and well presented, despite the fact that only a few people were in attendance this early in the morning (perhaps folks had too many margaritas the night before?). In every synthesis endeavour, there comes a point that defines one’s problem-solving abilities. I am making a subfield-agnostic statement, but such defining points are perhaps best illustrated by way of total synthesis. I was intrigued by Dennis Wright’s synthesis of frondosin A, presented by his student Michael VanHeyst. The paper describing their approach recently appeared in JACS and contains a number of clever mechanistic twists. I will comment on just one of them, as it goes well with the theme of today, which is about problem-solving. A case in point is the attempted cleavage of the oxabicycle shown below. The failed attempt illustrates the capricious nature of the 7-membered ring, which leads to complete lack of selectivity during elimination. After months of trying, a reasonable solution came in the form of a phosphine-mediated rearrangement that “relayed” bonds in a super clever way that culminated in elimination of phosphine oxide. This paper also features a fascinating explanation of stereochemistry inversion that has put to rest some previous controversies.
Dave Price was great to work with at Pfizer, good to hear it.
Cool, Tim! See you next week at AstraZeneca, buddy!!