Elias J. Corey Award For Outstanding Original Contribution In Organic Synthesis By A Young Investigator | January 10, 2011 Issue - Vol. 89 Issue 2 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 89 Issue 2 | p. 37 | Awards
Issue Date: January 10, 2011

Elias J. Corey Award For Outstanding Original Contribution In Organic Synthesis By A Young Investigator

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Department: ACS News
Credit: Courtesy of Jeffrey Bode/ETH Zurich
Credit: Courtesy of Jeffrey Bode/ETH Zurich

Jeffrey W. Bode entered Trinity University set on studying anything but chemistry, but one fateful semester as he watched the classes he wanted filling up during registration, he ended up in Michael P. Doyle’s organic chemistry class. Once he was introduced to the discipline, he was hooked. The creativity and challenge drew him in, particularly the notion that a chemist could dream up a molecule and then simply try to make it.

“The great thing about organic chemistry is it doesn’t matter what you say, or what you think: At the end of the day, you have to make molecules,” Bode, 36, now a professor of synthetic organic chemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), says. “That really keeps organic chemistry honest and adds a level of reality and humility to the whole process.”

He began his doctoral work at California Institute of Technology with Erick M. Carreira before moving with Carreira to ETH Zurich. Following a postdoctoral fellowship in Keisuke Suzuki’s lab at Tokyo Institute of Technology, Bode joined the University of California, Santa Barbara, as an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

Bode was exceptionally productive during his time at UCSB. Discoveries included the development of new organocatalytic reactions, the design of “adaptive organic molecules,” new chemoselective ligation reactions for synthesizing proteins and peptides, and the synthesis of bioactive molecules.

Among his research efforts, the chemoselective ligation reaction, a way to form amide bonds between α-keto carboxylic acids and N-alkyl hydroxylamines under mild conditions, has become Bode’s calling card. “This breathtakingly simple and elegant amide-forming ligation has been demonstrated for joining short peptides and for the iterative synthesis 
of β-peptide oligomers,” says Gary A. Molander, Hirschmann-Makineni Professor of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania.

“The near-ideal reaction is highly chemoselective, it proceeds in water without catalysts or other reagents, and is atom economical in that its sole by-products are water and carbon dioxide,” explains Emory University’s William Patterson Timmie Professor of Organic Chemistry, Albert Padwa. “It has widely been considered in the organic community as one of the most promising new methodology leads for chemical protein synthesis in the past few decades.”

After four years at UCSB, Bode took a position as associate professor of chemistry at Penn. Last year, Bode returned to his graduate school roots, moving his research group to ETH Zurich.

In Zurich, Bode expects his lab to embark on more ambitious projects aimed at exploiting the potential of the chemical ligation reaction to systematically build large molecules. “We’re trying to figure out how we can take the discoveries that we have and put them in a context beyond what we would normally do in traditional synthetic chemistry,” Bode says.

The Elias J. Corey Award adds to an already impressive list of accolades in Bode’s young career. Recognitions include a National Science Foundation Career Award, a Sloan Foundation Fellowship, a Packard Foundation Fellowship, an Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award from ACS, and multiple awards from pharmaceutical companies.

Bode will present the award address before the Division of Organic Chemistry.

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