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Discovery and rational design of new reactions using C-H activation

Our program centers around the discovery of catalytic carbon-carbon and carbon-heteroatom bond forming reactions based on C-H activation. Target transformations are selected to enable 1) the use of simple and abundant starting materials such as aliphatic acids, amines and alcohols, and 2) disconnections that drastically shorten the synthesis of a drug molecule or a major class of biologically active compounds. Ultimately, we hope to develop catalytic reactions to parallel enzymatic transformations in terms of reactivity and selectivity. To achieve this goal, our research activities are directed towards the following central challenges: 1) C-H activation of broadly useful substrates initiated by weak coordination and ligand acceleration; 2) Achieving site-selective remote C-H activation using distance and geometry as the key differentiating parameters; 3) Establishing new stereomodel and developing chiral ligands to enable enantioselective C-H activation via metal insertion.

Major components of training for students are organometallic chemistry, asymmetric catalysis (synthesis and characterization of organometallic complexes as catalysts or intermediates; ligand design for chiral control or acceleration) and organic synthesis (in the context of drug discovery and natural product synthesis). To elucidate reaction mechanism, we collaborate extensively via NSF center (Professors Jamal Musaev, Emory University, Ken Houk, UCLA, Keiji Morokuma, Kyoto University, Donna Blackmond, TSRI, Matthew Sigman, University of Utah, Shannon S. Stahl, University of Wisconsin ). To showcase the utility of our C-H activation reaction in total synthesis, we collaborate with experts on total synthesis (Professors Phil S. Baran, TSRI; Erik J. Sorensen, Princeton; Richmond Sarpong, Berkeley). For applications of our reactions in industry, we work closely with pharmaceutical and agrochemical industry (BMS, Syngenta, Vertex, Pfizer, Eisai, Merck, Abide, Boehringer Ingelheim and Aldrich). We have also co-founded Vividion (with Ben Cravatt and Phil S. Baran) to apply C-H activation to drug discovery.

For recent perspective and introduction of our research program, click here to view a lecture by professor Jin-Quan Yu in 43rd National Organic Chemistry Symposium 2013.

for advances in addressing three major challenges in C-H activation, see our reviews:

Accelerating C-H activation by a bifunctional MPAA ligand: Acc. Chem. Res. 2020, 53, 833.
Enantioselective C-H activation by metalation: Science 2018, 359, 759.
Molecular editing through site-selective C-H activation: J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2020, ASAP.

For a recent interview of professor Jin-Quan Yu by the MacArthur Foundation, click here.

To learn historic scientific events of the group, click here.

For selected seminars from Yu lab, click here.

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