Jason Chen

Organic Synthesis and Chemical Biology

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Research Interests

Multi-step synthesis of complex organic molecules provides a demanding test of synthetic reactions and strategies, serving both to inspire development of useful transformations and to measure progress in the field. Equally importantly, organic synthesis is a powerful tool for accessing potentially-useful molecules, both natural and designed. For example, a flexible synthesis allows access to analogues for comparative studies (e.g., biological assays). Systematic probing of the effects of structural modifications leads to an atomic-level understanding of structure-property relationships, enabling the design of compounds with tailored properties.

One area of research in the Chen group is the synthesis and evaluation of compounds with potential applications in biology or medicine. Our targets are scarce marine natural products with structures that draw attention to shortcomings in the synthetic toolbox. We are inspired by the need for flexible selectivity; rather than focus on one stereo- or regioisomer of a product, we design synthetic approaches that should be amenable to flexible analoguing. Current targets include an immunostimulant, an anticancer agent, and a structurally-unprecedented alkaloid.

Another research thrust in the group is the development of practical biorenewable monomeric and polymeric materials. We are interested in practical and scalable syntheses of molecularly well-defined materials with interesting and tunable properties. Of particular interest are materials that can respond to environmental cues in a pre-defined manner, either reversibly or irreversibly. Current interests include the design and synthesis of biorenewable diisocyanates and polyurethanes (see our ChemSusChem paper in 2013).