Our group has published extensively on the synthesis of natural products and has made major advances in many areas of organic chemistry including the use of iron tricarbonyl complexes in synthesis, encapsulated reagents, microbial oxidation, methods for spiroketal synthesis and microwave chemistry. Our work on the development and use of immobilized reagents in multi-step organic synthesis, which we now apply to flow chemistry, has impacted significantly on how we conduct our research. We have also achieved notable successes in the area of organocatalysis with the development of pyrrolidinyl tetrazole as an organocatalyst for enantioselective processes. The unifying theme of these research interests is the development of new synthesis methods, their application to the construction of biologically important molecules (natural products, pharmaceutical and agrochemical leads) and the development of novel and improved flow chemistry methods to enhance the capabilities of organic synthesis. There is a web page on selected Ley group methodology that we have developed with cross-reference to the relevant publications.
Our group is committed to providing excellence in post-graduate training and this is reflected in the large number of chemists who have passed through the group; 150 PhD students, more than 160 postdoctoral researchers and numerous visiting students. There are now 37 former group members in academic positions and the majority of the remainder have found employment in the pharmaceutical or related industries. Our group prides itself on its strong international reputation and its strength in organic synthesis training.
Our Interest in Natural Products
Natural products are a rich source of molecular diversity in terms of biological activity and complex molecular architectures. Over the last 4 years we have completed the total synthesis of 31 natural products, this makes a total collection around 120 completed total syntheses. Some of these recent accomplishments include spongistatin 1 (an exceptional anti-mitotic agent), rapamycin (an immunosuppressant), several thapsigargins (sub-nanomolar inhibitors of molecular SERCA pumps) including thapsigargin itself, azadirachtin (a potent insect antifeedant) and bengazole A (an ergosterol-dependent fungicide).
Our Interest in Flow Chemistry
In addition to our research on natural product synthesis, we have established the Innovative Technology Centre (ITC) in 2005 as a new state-of-the-art flow chemistry facility in the Department of Chemistry at Cambridge. This facility has opened up a new and competitive area of science for the group and the centre’s ongoing research has helped establish the UK as a leading equipment provider for flow chemistry devices. It has also created a platform for our group to build strategic partnerships with manufacturers and industry. One recent achievement, the total synthesis of the alkaloid natural product oxomaritidine, is a good illustration of the power of flow chemistry (Figure 2). This synthesis takes approximately 5 hours to complete, in comparison to 4-5 days using conventional batch synthesis methods.
Our group is also part of the Cancer Research UK Graduate Training Programme in Medicinal Chemistry that started in 2005. This enables us to work on an increasing number of interdisciplinary projects with pharmacology and oncology research groups within the University.
For more details visit: http://leygroup.ch.cam.ac.uk/svl.html