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TU Munich distinction for pioneering research on synthesis of natural products

Phil S. Baran receives Wilhelm Manchot Professorship

Prof. Kai-Olaf Hinrichsen, Prof. Dr. Phil S. Baran, Dr. Tanja Gulder, Prof. W.A. Herrmann – Photo: Andreas Battenberg / TUM
Prof. Kai-Olaf Hinrichsen, Prof. Dr. Phil S. Baran, Dr. Tanja Gulder, Prof. W.A. Herrmann – Photo: Andreas Battenberg / TUM

Campus news

The Department of Chemistry at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Jürgen Manchot Foundation have granted the chemist Prof. Phil S. Baran the 2017 Wilhelm Manchot Research Professorship. With this distinction, the TUM honors his pioneering work on organic reactions creating new and efficient routes to natural products for the development of new medicaments.

Phil S. Baran, professor at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla, California, describes his work as the search for the ‘ideal synthesis’. This should be applicable to as many different variations of a molecule as possible, use cheap starting materials, be robust against impurities and disturbances, and should be easily scalable for the production of large quantities.

In his endeavor to get as close as possible to this ideal synthesis, he established, among other things, the late-state functionalization approach in the total synthesis of natural products. Starting from already existing molecular frameworks, he efficiently introduces new functional groups with this strategy. A prerequisite for this is a large number of new reaction types developed by him and his team members.

New reaction pathways for pharmaceutical development

"There can be no more noble undertaking than the invention of medicines," says Prof. Baran. His basic research therefore has the stated objective of creating new pathways for the development of pharmaceuticals. In particular, the synthesis and variation of the natural products of many working groups worldwide benefit from the innovative approaches developed in his working group.

"In addition to basic research, his goal is always to create something that many will use," said Dr. Tanja Gulder, who worked as a postdoctoral fellow in his group and is now head of an Emmy Noether junior research group in the Faculty of Chemistry at the TU Munich. "Many of the reagents developed in his laboratory are already commercially available and are used worldwide."

Highest scientific productivity

Phil S. Baran studied Chemistry at the University of New York before joining the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), La Jolla, for his doctoral thesis. After a postdoctoral stay with Prof. E.J. Corey at Harvard University, he returned to the TSRI as an assistant professor in 2003, where he rose to the full professor in 2008. He is also a member of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology since 2009 and holds the Darlene Shiley Chair of Chemistry since 2013.

More than 250 original papers and nine patents testify his high scientific productivity. He is member of the US National Academy of Science and has received numerous awards, including the Elias J. Corey Award (2016), the Mukaiyama Award (2014), and the MacArthur Fellowship ('genius grant', 2013).

Manchot Research Professorship

Every year the Jürgen Manchot Foundation awards the Manchot Research Professorship to an outstanding chemist. In addition to honoring the scientific work of the scientists, the foundation invites the award recipient to lecture at the Department of Chemistry at the Technical University of Munich.

The prize commemorates the chemist Wilhelm Manchot (1869 – 1945), who was professor and director of the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry of the Technische Hochschule München (today TUM) from 1914 to 1935. Manchot’s merits in teaching were outstanding. He translated the venerable “Hollemann-Wiberg” into German – to this day a standard reference work well known to every student of chemistry.