An article authored by Weiping Tang, professor, in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Division and Co-Director of the Medicinal Chemistry Center was published online in the March 15 edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS). With an impact factor of 13.038 in 2015, JACS is the world’s foremost journal for chemistry. A journal reviewer noted that the paper entitled “Catalytic Site-Selective Acylation of Carbohydrates Directed by Cation–n Interaction,” is one of the top synthetic carbohydrate articles in recent years.
Carbohydrates perform numerous roles in living organisms, such as serving as structural components and directing cell adhesions. The chemical synthesis of carbohydrates is essential for the study of their biological functions and drug discovery. The differentiation of hydroxyl groups in carbohydrates is a long-standing challenge. Using a pair of chiral catalysts, Tang’s group can now differentiate hydroxyl groups in various carbohydrates systematically and predictably with high selectivity. This will significantly simplify the synthesis of carbohydrate building blocks. They also discovered that cation-lone pair interaction directs the site-selectivity. Since oxygen lone pairs are prevalent in carbohydrates and many other complex natural products, the recognition of cation-lone pair interaction as the determining factor for selectivity will have a profound effect not only on carbohydrate chemistry and glycobiology but also on other areas of chemistry.
Tang’s research interests include various aspects of drug discovery including synthetic organic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, assay development, and chemical biology. His current focus is the development of new therapeutics for metabolic disorders and cancers.