Davies Receives Award from Johnson & Johnson for Work on Method to Synthesize New Pharmaceuticals

By Arthur Page

Release Date: September 8, 2000

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Huw M.L. Davies, Larkin Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University at Buffalo, has received a prestigious Focused Giving Award from Johnson & Johnson.

The award, worth $80,000 per year over three years, will fund a research project entitled "Pharmaceutical Applications of Catalytic Asymmetric Reactions."

Davies and his UB colleagues have developed a revolutionary method for synthesizing specialty chemicals -- especially pharmaceuticals -- that makes it possible to activate the normally unreactive carbon-hydrogen bonds in organic molecules.

The chemists' research findings -- published recently in the Journal of the American Chemical Society -- demonstrate an extremely robust and practical method for synthesizing new, complex chemicals from cheap, bulk chemicals. The new method is significant because it generates catalytic reactions and allows for control of the resulting three-dimensional structure, features that make it extremely useful for industrial applications. It is applicable to the synthesis of a wide range of chemicals.

The method marks a new milestone in the search for what often is called the "holy grail" of organometallic chemistry: the catalytic activation of carbon-hydrogen bonds.

In the journal article, Davies highlights the method's effectiveness in synthesizing two important pharmaceuticals: Ritalin, the common treatment for children with attention-deficit disorders, and sertraline, the commonly prescribed antidepressant marketed as Zoloft.

A UB faculty member since 1995, Davies' research also has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Since the inception of the Focused Giving Program at Johnson & Johnson in 1980, more than $38 million has been awarded to academic scientists doing basic research to advance science and technology in the health-care and medical fields.

Davies lives in Clarence Center.