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Daniel Weix to receive a Novartis Early Career Award

January 15, 2015

man in chem labDaniel Weix, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Rochester, has been named a recipient of the Novartis Early Career Award in Organic Chemistry.

Novartis, a multi-national pharmaceutical company based in Switzerland, honors two scientists each year who are “within 10 years of having established an independent academic research career in the areas of organic or bioorganic chemistry in the broadest sense.”

The Novartis Early Career Award comes with a $150,000 grant over three years to continue the recipient’s research.

Weix, who specializes in organic (carbon-based) synthesis, is working on developing better ways of creating molecules in order to accelerate the discovery of new, useful compounds, including pharmaceuticals.

“This award is especially gratifying because Novartis really understands what’s needed to develop new pharmaceuticals,” said Weix.

Most methods for making carbon-carbon bonds unite a nucleophile with an electrophile—nucleophiles donate election pairs, whereas electrophiles accept electron pairs. The carbon nucleophiles are especially difficult to manufacture, making them costly and hard to obtain for researchers who need them to conduct their lab work.

Specifically, Weix’s research involves new methods of directly coupling—or joining—two different carbon electrophiles, avoiding nucleophiles entirely. The challenge of this approach is that the electrophiles are very alike, but must be differentiated for selective reactions to occur with metal catalysts. The Weix group has recently discovered how to distinguish the two species, making “cross-electrophile coupling reactions” possible.

“The award will also give me the opportunity to interact with scientists at Novartis,” said Weix. “It’s important for me to hear about new problems and research possibilities directly from scientists on the front lines of biomedical research.”

Weix earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 2005. He joined the University of Rochester faculty in 2008. He’s received several honors, including the Thieme Chemistry Journal Prize, an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, and a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award.

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