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University of Alberta organic chemist receives top young Canadian scientist prize
Date:2/2/2009

A University of Alberta organic chemist has been named the 2008 winner of the prestigious Steacie Prize for outstanding scientific research carried out in Canada. The prize is one of Canada's most prestigious science awards encompassing a wide range of disciplines including mathematics, engineering, chemistry, physics, and biology.

Dr. Dennis Hall is an organic chemist working on applications of compounds known as boronic acids and esters. While today's chemists can make virtually any molecule they choose, the real challenge is figuring out which molecule will serve a useful, specific purpose, then finding a way to produce that compound efficiently, says Hall. Doing so could save millions of dollars in drug development or improve current industrial processes.

A mature field, new reactions in organic chemistry are not common. However Hall and his team have uncovered new ways to activate organic molecules to make them undergo new reactions, resulting in significant new uses for these compounds while also making major theoretical contributions.

One of Hall's recent discoveries is that certain boronic acids are particularly good catalysts for making amides under mild conditions at room temperature (amides are important compounds whose functions include bonding peptides together, which in turn form proteins). Amides appear in more than a quarter of all pharmaceutical drugs, but traditional methods to manufacture them are complicated and generate a lot of waste, some of it toxic. Hall's work helps further efforts of making chemistry "greener", more environmentally friendly by increasing the efficiency of chemical processes and producing less waste.

"It is really worthwhile to improve known reactions with boron chemistry because it is a less toxic element than many other elements," he said.

Hall admits 2008 was a bit of a "golden year". Early in the year he received the Merck Frosst Centre for Therapeutic Research Awa
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Contact: Julie Naylor
julie.naylor@ualberta.ca
780-492-4073
University of Alberta
Source:Eurekalert  

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University of Alberta organic chemist receives top young Canadian scientist prize
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