Professor Tim Donohoe
Professor of Organic Chemistry
Our research interests lie in synthetic organic chemistry, and the contribution that this science can make to the fields of medicine and natural products synthesis. We concentrate on developing new catalytic reactions and methodologies for synthetic organic chemistry and then employing our chemistry to make biologically important natural products. Our work is directly relevant to the pharmaceutical industry (the research group is supported by many multi-national companies) and we love working on topics such as hydrogen borrowing, metathesis and dearomatisation reactions. The facilities available for research in our labs in the CRL are second to none. The research group consists of three Part IIs, ten DPhil students and four postdoctoral assistants. We meet at least twice a week to discuss advances in the laboratory and to hold problem sessions which highlight recent advances in the literature.
The use of reversible catalytic redox processes (termed hydrogen borrowing catalysis) is a powerful way of making C-C bonds. The reversible nature of the redox reactions mean that reactive intermediates can be generated, and then captured, in situ. We have developed the Ph* group to overcome a number of previous problems centered around a lack of reactivity of the carbonyl substrates and the conditions employed, and this has allowed us to make complex structures or to make single stereoisomers of the products. Our goal is to greatly enhance the range of products that can be formed via enolate chemistry.
We are also interested in the role that dearomatising reactions can play in organic synthesis. Recently, we have developed dearomatising reactions that utilise catalytic amounts of rhodium and that are able to form new C-C bonds in the dearomatisation process. This exciting new area enables a link to be made between the areas of aromatic and non-aromatic chemistry and allows us to rapidly prepare complex 3-D templates from 2-D aromatic precursors.
Natural product synthesis
As we develop a new method, it is important to test it in the area of total synthesis, and we concentrate on finding the limits of our new methodology with application to complex and biologically active targets. A selection of recently completed targets is shown below, together with the original methodology project that enabled the synthesis.
In 1989 Tim studied at Oxford for a D. Phil with Professor Steve Davies and then in 1992 went to the US for postdoctoral work with Professor Phil Magnus FRS. In 1994 he took up his first independent job as Lecturer in Chemistry at the University of Manchester, being promoted to Reader in 2000. In 2001 he moved to the Dyson Perrins Laboratory, Oxford as Lecturer in Chemistry and Fellow of Magdalen College. In 2004 he was appointed Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford and between 2006-2011 he was Head of Organic Chemistry at Oxford.
Tim’s research interests lie in the field of redox chemistry, catalysis and the application of this methodology to natural product synthesis. Tim has published over 200 research papers and his research has been recognized with the GlaxoWellcome Award for Innovative Chemistry (1996), the Pfizer Academic Award (2000), the Novartis Young Investigator Award (2001), the AstraZeneca Award for Organic Chemistry (2002), the Royal Society of Chemistry Corday-Morgan Medal (2006), the RSC Synthetic Organic Chemistry Award (2011), the SCI process chemistry award (2012), the RSC Charles Rees Award (2014) and an EPSRC Established Career Fellowship (2014). Tim is an editor for the journal Tetrahedron Letters and Chairman of the Tetrahedron Board.