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Dick Stufkens Prijs 2010 awarded to chemist Niels Elders

The Dick Stufkens Prijs 2010 is awarded to Dr. Niels Elders. The prize is given by the Holland Research School of Molecular Chemistry for his Ph.D. thesis “Multicomponent Approaches to Molecular Diversity & Complexity”, in which he describes the development of various new multi-component synthetic procedures to obtain libraries of novel organic molecules that may see applications for medicines or catalysis. At November 25, the Dick Stufkens Prijs 2010 will be presented at the Gorlaeus Laboratory of Leiden University.

The Dick Stufkens Prijs is an annual prize, awarded to the best thesis of a Ph.D. student belonging to the Holland Research School of Molecular Chemistry (HRSMC). The prize consists of a certificate and an amount of 1.000 euro. Prof. dr. Eite Drent will present the prize to the winner on November 25 during the annual HRSMC symposium in Leiden. At the symposium the laureate will present a lecture on the work described in his thesis.

Libraries of molecules

The development of pharmaceutical drugs to promote and restore health, is very much dependent on the interaction of small organic molecules with biological functions. Combinatorial synthetic chemistry allows the pharmaceutical chemists to obtain large numbers of molecules that can be screened for the desired properties. As the number of molecules that can be made is larger than the number of hydrogen atoms in the universe, a more targeted approach is needed to achieve manageable libraries of molecules.

High degrees of complexity in a single-reaction step can be obtained by carrying out multi-component reactions (MCRs). Following this approach, Niels Elders showed that reacting isonitriles (isocyanides), primary amines and carbonyl components produced libraries of substituted imidazoline molecules. As the number of isonitriles that could be used was too limited to make the intended libraries, successful efforts were made to extend to the use of less acidic isocyanides as building blocks. 

Also it was discovered that by changing the reaction conditions, libraries of substituted oxazoles and N-(cyanomethyl)amides could be produced by using the same building blocks. The highlight of Niels’ PhD research is the further extension of this approach to carry out a one-pot, 8-component reaction, which involved 3 subsequent MCR processes. This methodology extends considerably the possibilities to obtain a variety of libraries, as highlighted by a Hot Paper in Angewandte Chemie in 2009.

Scientific impact

The jury of the Dick Stufkens Prijs expects that the work of Niels Elders will have considerable impact. Niels’ work already led to no less than 7 publications in the international scientific literature. One of the papers published in Angewandte Chemie, 2009, received attention from the national and international press (e.g. Highlight in Nature).

Niels performed his research in the Department of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He defended his thesis on April 1, 2010 (promotors prof. dr. R.V.A. Orru and prof. dr. M.R. Groen; co-promotor dr. E. Ruijter). Presently Niels is working at Akzo Nobel in the area of novel coatings for the aviation industry.

About the HRSMC

The Holland Research School of Molecular Chemistry was founded in 1994 and has been accredited by the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). The research school combines experimental and theoretical groups working on molecular chemistry and physics from the Universiteit van Amsterdam, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the Universiteit Leiden.

Apart from creating the appropriate conditions for further collaboration between the participating groups, the school also provides an internationally highly acclaimed teaching programme for PhD students. Prof. Dick Stufkens †, scientific director during the 1997-2001 period, has been one of the driving forces behind the HRSMC. His efforts have, amongst others, contributed significantly to the international reputation of the HRSMC.

At November 25, the Dick Stufkens Prijs 2010 will be presented by prof.dr. Eite Drent during the annual HRSMC symposium at the Gorlaeus Laboratory, Leiden University. Apart from Niels Elders, who will give a lecture on his PhD research, various HRSMC PhD students and staff members will present lectures and posters. A guest lecture will be given by Prof. R. van Santen (Eindhoven University of Technology). The symposium is open for non-HRSMC members, for further information go to http://www.hrsmc.nl/symposium.html.

Website: http://www.hrsmc.nl/

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