2012 Welch Award in Chemistry Recipients
Dr. David A. Evans
"For his contributions to organic reaction design, in particular stereocontrol
in carbon-carbon bond formation, which advanced the
field of complex molecule synthesis."
Dr. Evans and his laboratory have pioneered innovative new approaches to molecular design, creating new tools and techniques that have transformed the synthesis of complex organic structures. The organic chemist also has been responsible for replicating more than 50 bioactive molecules found in nature – most extremely complex – to enable their therapeutic use, including chemotherapies, antibiotics and AIDS drugs.
One of Dr. Evans’ most important contributions has been the discovery of methods that control the chirality, or handedness, of organic structures during their construction. Many molecules used in drug therapy are chiral. That is, they exist as a pair of mirror-image isomers called enantiomers, with different physiological properties.
Dr. Evans’ work has led the way to understanding and controlling chirality in ever-more complex molecules. For close to four decades, he has focused on developing new reaction methods to achieve absolute stereocontrol in carbon-carbon bonds. Controlling the structure of molecules allows the scientist to identify the benefits of right- vs. left-handed carbon structures, and then to create the appropriate version. Most therapeutic compounds today are extremely complex with up to 25 asymmetrical centers, with each additional center increasing the complexity exponentially. While challenging to work with, these multiple centers provide drugs with higher selectivity, allowing more targeted delivery.
After graduating from Oberlin College, Dr. Evans earned his doctorate at California Institute of Technology. He served on the faculties of UCLA and CalTech before moving to Harvard in 1983 where he is the Abbott and James Lawrence Professor of Chemistry and Research Professor. His some 300 published papers are highly cited and he is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Yamada Prize, Prelog Medal and Arthur C. Cope Award, among many others. Dr. Evans has been elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences; the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; named a Fellow, Royal Society of Chemistry; and Humboldt Senior Scientist. He received the Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Prize for Contributions to Understand Education at Harvard in 2007. Currently a consultant with Amgen, he has served on the advisory boards of seven scientific journals.Printer Friendly