We are synthetic organic chemists at heart. We work hard, play hard, and try not to take ourselves too seriously.
We do, however, take chemistry very seriously. Currently, we hold two primary objectives. First, we aspire to invent new tools for the production of complex, valuable matter from cheap chemical precursors. Second, we are motivated to learn more about disease, with the hope that our findings will somehow, someday help make sick people healthy again, in any way possible.
We develop new synthetic methods that streamline the way that important molecular scaffolds are assembled. Our work in this area has begun with the specific aim of nitrogen heterocycle (pyridines, pyrimidines, etc) functionalization. These units are very common in medicines and other valuable materials; one goal here is to deliver simple, powerful new ways to couple them with alkenes. We are currently studying a family of one-electron (radical) mechanistic pathways because they offer access to highly reactive intermediates under very mild conditions. Consequently, these methods operate smoothly in the presence of many functional groups that would react or decompose under ionic conditions. Our approach is simple, we learn a lot of mechanistic lessons in our lab, and we try to let them inform our approaches to new, difficult problems.
In addition to methodological studies, we are interested in biological applications of small organic molecules. Nuclear receptors play a central role in gene expression, and they are the molecular targets of many important drugs. The orphan human nuclear receptor Liver Receptor Homologue-1 (LRH-1) is a potential drug target for the treatment of metabolic diseases and certain cancers, but little is known about how one might control LRH-1 with small molecules. In collaboration with Professors Eric Ortlund (Emory Department of Biochemistry) and John Calvert (Emory Department of Surgery) we are working to develop small molecule modulators of LRH-1, and to understand the biological impact of such actions.