B.R.S.M. When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail


Woodward Wednesday 6: Reserpine (Part 2/2)

Okay, this second post is a lot later and a fair bit shorter than I had hoped it would be, but it's been a crazy and not entirely pleasant month. Enjoy! 


In the previous Woodward Wednesday post I showed you guys the first half of Woodward's epic total synthesis of the popular bioactive natural product reserpine. If you didn't catch that when it came out, go and check it out, because I'm just going to carry straight on where it left off. Here goes!

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And Now For Something Completely Different 5: The Merck Index Challenge

Sorry things have been so quiet around here; it's been a hectic month! Here's something silly born of an unusual conversation over coffee.


The office microwave:  unnecessary chemophobia?

The Merck Index, along with Fieser and Fieser's Reagents for Organic Synthesis, Greene’s Protective Groups, March’s Advanced Organic Chemistry and Amarego’s Purification of Laboratory Chemicals is one of those books that any self-respecting organic research group will have a copy of. It’s an iconic reference work, although its usefulness has definitely waned in recent decades with the rise of the internet, Scifinder/Reaxys/Chemspider and Wikipedia. As Derek reported before Christmas, it was recently acquired by the RSC, who have just released an updated edition. I mostly use mine to pass the time waiting for NMRs to run, or when I need a more reputable reference than Wikipedia for a paper or report.[1] However, all of that changed last week when a tea break conversation sparked a bizarre new game: The Merck Index Challenge.

Anyone who’s ever flicked through a copy will probably have noticed that amongst all the drugs, solvents, salts and plants there are a number of… aberrant… entries. For example, Whiskey. And Lard.[2] And Raspberries. And Quorn. And Milk. Thus, the question arose: could a meal be constructed using only ingredients from the Merck Index? Better yet, could one manage three courses?

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Guest Post: Pactamycin (Hanessian, 2012)

To mix things up a bit, I've traded posts with Brandon from Chemtips, who's going to be telling you a bit more about Hanessian's pactamycin work in this special guest post. If you head over to his blog you can read my advice to anyone attempting a Birch reduction. Anyone else interested in guest blogging here or swapping posts, please contact me! Enjoy! -BRSM

Pactamycin Structure

Today’s target, pactamycin, is an excellent example of just how creative evolution can be.  Densely functionalized and almost unique (the authors put forward several loosely related structures), this Streptomyces metabolite is characterized by six contiguous stereogenic centres.  First isolated in the early 1960’s, pactamycin binds strongly to the 30S fragment of the ribosome and is toxic to both mammalian and bacterial cells [1].  Briefly considered a potential anticancer agent, the natural product was ultimately shelved over safety concerns.

The first total synthesis of pactamycin was published by Hanessian et al. in Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Eng. back in 2011, but I’m going to base most of this post on a follow-up publication in J. Org. Chem., which details some of the trials and tribulations encountered during the long synthesis [2].  The ACIE paper has also been discussed over at Synthetic Nature.

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