2018 Boehringer Ingelheim Green Chemistry Award

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Professor Ohyun Kwon, an organic chemist, has been awarded the Boehringer Ingelheim Green Chemistry Award for 2018.

Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) is one of the world’s 20 leading pharmaceutical companies. As part of their effort “to enhance basic research” in Green Chemistry, Boehringer Ingelheim’s Chemical Development Department will support research conducted in Professor Ohyun Kwon’s research lab. 

They maintain that refining existing chemical reactions into greener processes will be essential for adapting synthesis to the challenges of drug discovery, development, and production in the 21st century.

According to the ACS GCIPR’s 2007 perspective on green chemistry, four – Mitsunobu, Amidation, Appel (OH activation for nucleophilic substitution), Wittig – of the thirteen key reactions for which better reagents are needed generate phosphine oxides as byproducts. The objective of this project is to convert phosphine-oxide generating reactions – Mitsunobu, Amidation, Appel, Wittig – into phosphine oxide–catalyzed processes and minimize the E factor, thereby lowering the cost and shortening the time required for purification. This strategy should reinvigorate the area of transforming carbonyls to alkenes, imines and amides, and alcohols to other functionalities, particularly in industrial settings.

Kwon received her B.S. in 1991 and M.S. in 1993 from Seoul National University in South Korea. In 1993, she came to the U.S. to pursue her Ph.D. which she received in 1998 from Columbia University. She then went on to Harvard University as a Howard Hughes Postdoctoral Fellow to study chemical genetics. Kwon joined the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry faculty as an assistant professor in 2001. Her research at UCLA evolves around the development of new phosphine (oxide) catalysis reactions. The new reaction methodologies are used in the total synthesis of natural products and in the production of libraries of small organic molecules for chemical genetic applications.  Kwon has developed 19 patented drug candidates and 12 commercialized chemicals.  To learn more about Kwon’s research, visit her group’s website.