During my doctorate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, in addition to my research and teaching activities, I, in collaboration with Barbara Czakó, envisioned, designed and wrote a unique reference book on the use of named reactions in organic synthesis. This project started as a simple collection of 50 named reactions in 2002, while taking the graduate level synthetic course taught by Professor Amos B. Smith.
After consulting with faculty members, especially with Professor Madeleine M. Joullié, we were encouraged to expand this collection and to contact a number of publishers to see if they were interested. We reasoned that today’s organic chemist is faced with the challenge of navigating his or her way through the vast body of literature generated daily. Papers and review articles are full of scientific jargon involving the description of methods, reactions and processes defined by the names of the inventors or by a well-accepted phrase. The use of so-called “named reactions” plays an important role in organic chemistry. Recognizing these named reactions and understanding their scientific content is essential for graduate students and practicing organic chemists. In March 2005, at the National ACS Meeting in San Diego, Elsevier published our manuscript with the title Strategic Applications of Named Reactions in Organic Synthesis.
The book describes and illustrates 250 of the most important reactions in organic synthesis. In a few of the book’s many reviews, the Journal of Chemical Education called it “outstanding in every way”; Choice wrote that the “book greatly advances the description of both the art and science of chemical synthesis”; and Angewandte Chemie stated, “This work sets new standards no other book covers the subject of named reactions in such an up-to-date and comprehensive way.”
Professor E.J. Corey, who is now my postdoctoral advisor, in the foreword to the book wrote: “This book, is destined to become unusually useful, valuable, and influential for advanced students and researchers in the field. It breaks new ground in many ways and sets an admirable standard for the next generation of texts and reference works. Its virtues are so numerous there is a problem in deciding where to begin.”
Our book was the first and is still the only advanced level text/reference book in organic chemistry to use four colors in its schematic depictions of reactions. It is now used all over the world, including in Europe, China, Japan, India, and Australia. It has been adopted for advanced-level graduate courses at many leading U.S. universities, including Harvard, MIT, Princeton, University of California–Berkeley, Scripps Research Institute, and University of Pennsylvania. Working chemists find it a valuable tool that they frequently consult. Within two years of its publication, Strategic Applications of Named Reactions in Organic Synthesis became a market leader among advanced organic chemistry texts. Translations in Japanese and Chinese have already appeared, and other foreign-language editions are in preparation. The book has received two internationally recognized awards. Choice, the magazine of the Association of College and Research Libraries, designated it as an “Outstanding Academic Title,” based on its excellence in scholarship and presentation. This designation is reserved for only 10 percent of the over 7000 academic titles the association reviews each year. The Professional and Scholarly Division of the American Association of Publishers gave the book its “Award for Excellence in Professional and Scholarly Publishing” in the entire field of chemistry in February 2006.
During my postdoctoral studies at Harvard University, I collaborated with Professor E.J. Corey and with Barbara Czakó to write a book which is intended for a broad readership, from college undergraduates to professionals and researchers in the life sciences and medicine. In addition, we also hoped to reach out to the educated lay person with an interest in health and medicine. In less than 8 months after its inception in late 2006, the manuscript was finished in a printer ready format by and published with the title Molecules and Medicine by John Wiley and Sons. I was responsible for the creation of 70 percent of the artwork, 100 percent of the layout, and about a third of the text.
An effort has been made to integrate chemistry, biology, drug discovery and medicine in a way that is clear and self-explanatory. Heavy use has been made of chemical structures, since they provide a fundamental key to the language of life and the human activities that flow from it. Our age has seen the rapid evolution of molecular medicine as a critical part of the broader fields of health care and the biochemical basis of human disease. The understanding of human illness at the molecular level has brought and will bring great benefit to mankind.
There is a price to be paid in any attempt to understand molecular medicine, because that comprehension is greatly aided by the ability to decipher chemical structures which many have regarded as too onerous a challenge. One purpose of this book is to demonstrate that an adequate understanding of chemical structures is within the reach of most educated people, and well worth the effort. The first two parts of this book aim to provide the insights and background required to appreciate the architecture of therapeutic molecules and their target proteins, as they parade through the subsequent pages of this book.
Molecules and Medicine delves into the discovery, application and mode of action of more than one hundred of the most significant molecules now in use in modern medicine. Much background information, both chemical and biomedical, is provided. The therapeutic agents in this book are arranged in sections according to the type of medical condition they treat.
There are also numerous sections in the book that provide biomedical background. For instance, there are two-page to eight-page summaries of topics such as inflammation, metabolic syndrome, immunology, drug resistance, cancer and neuro-transmission. These are placed at strategic locations throughout the book.
Professor Samuel J. Danishefsky, Director of the Laboratory for Bioorganic Chemistry at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, wrote a review of Molecules and Medicine for Chemical and Engineering News. He praised the book’s “conciseness of language, strictly maintained focus, and clear adherence to priorities.” Professor Danishefsky concluded in his review, “I predict that Molecules and Medicine will be kept close at hand by all students and even many physicians and other health management personnel… It’s a book that will inspire the field. In that sense, it not only reports on a scientific subject but also creates new dimensions. Bravo to authors Corey, Czakó, and Kürti.”
In February 2008, the Professional and Scholarly Division of the American Association of Publishers designated Molecules and Medicine “Best of Physical Sciences and Mathematics”. In the view of the judges, the book’s outstanding achievement is in “bringing together the extraordinarily diverse elements of molecular medicine into an interactively manageable form; in the quality of its four color production of molecular images; and the assuredness of its prose.”
The prodigious growth of knowledge in the chemical sciences of the 20th century continues in the 21st. Accretive and gradual, more like a growing ocean wave than a consequence of dramatic or revolutionary changes, the advance is particularly significant in synthetic chemistry because of its centrality and value to society. For more than a century the rate of progress in synthetic chemistry has been such that every 15 years, or so, problems could be solved that were too difficult for scientists in the preceding period. The subject matter of this book provides abundant evidence of the increasing power of chemistry in recent years. It is a remarkable story considering that even in the mid-20th century the ability to control the absolute stereochemical course of chemical reactions seemed beyond reach. Chemists have been keenly aware for more than 100 years of the awesome catalytic power of nature’s catalysts, the enzymes, to produce complex organic molecules with complete stereocontrol, including absolute configuration. Yet, it is only now that centamolecular catalysts (molecular weights in the hundreds) are being created by chemists that begin to rival the much larger and more complex enzymes of biochemistry.
In Part I of this book we have tried to present clearly, comprehensively and concisely the most useful enantioselective processes available to synthetic chemists. Part II provides an extensive discussion of the most logical ways to apply these new enantioselective methods to the planning of syntheses of stereochemically complex molecules. This hitherto neglected area is essential for the advancement of enantioselective synthesis to a more rational and powerful level. Finally, Part III describes in detail many reaction sequences which have been used successfully for the construction of a wide variety of complex target molecules.
Our goal in writing this book has been to make accessible to researchers and students of synthetic chemistry the vast and still-expanding field of enantioselective synthesis in the hope that this fascinating area of chemistry can more readily be mastered.
Many scientific colleagues have perused pre-publication versions of this book. We have been encouraged by their very positive comments. It would be gratifying if this book empowers students and colleagues all over the world and accelerates progress in synthetic chemistry.