Research areas of the Institute of Organic Chemistry
The core of the Institute of Organic Chemistry is formed by the four permanent professors (Albrecht Berkessel, Bernd Goldfuß, Axel Griesbeck, Hans-Günther Schmalz). In addition, the institute hosts six research groups, run by young researchers either working on their habilitation (Martin Breugst, Jan Deska, Nils Schlörer) or having finished this process recently (Dirk Blunk, Ralf Giernoth, Mathis Schäfer
In brief, Organic Chemistry research in Cologne is multi-facetted and ranges from complex molecule synthesis to catalysis, photochemistry, mechanistic studies, and computation. Organic and organometallic multi-step synthesis, aiming at biologically active natural products and analogues, is represented in particular by Hans-Günther Schmalz, but is pursued as well in the group of Albrecht Berkessel. The same holds for the development and application of novel catalytic methodology, both in metal-based and organo-catalysis. As an example, the recent identification of the so-called Breslow intermediate in the Berkessel group has received much international recognition, like the contributions of the group in the area of oxidation catalysis. Current hot topics in the Schmalz group are the development of proline-derived secondary structure mimetics (as inhibitors of protein interactions) and of enzyme-triggered CO-releasing molecules. Also, new modular phoshine-phosphite ligands are used with outstanding success in enantioselective transition metal-catalyzed C-C-bond-forming reactions.
The name of Axel Griesbeck stands for photochemistry, and both mechanistic aspects and synthetic applications are covered by his group, for instance in the light-mediated synthesis of bioactive peroxides. Again for the synthesis of biologically active compounds, Jan Deska focuses on biocatalysis for the key steps. Bernd Goldfuß bridges the gap between experimentation and computation in catalysis, in particular with regard to understanding stereoselectivity. Martin Breugst - who has just recently "joined the team" - applies computation to the discovery of novel avenues in organocatalysis. The research activities of Dirk Blunk and Ralf Giernoth have in common that they emphasize the material aspects of organic compounds – surfactants and liquid crystalline materials in the former case, ionic liquids in the latter. In addition, the Giernoth group pursues method development in NMR spectroscopy, e.g. for use in ionic liquids.
Diverse as Cologne Organic Chemistry may be - one joint interest of most groups is the biological activity of organic compounds, both natural products and non-biogenic small molecules. Numerous highly productive cooperations between Organic Chemistry and the Faculty of Medicine exist, and recent efforts aim at developing the multiple bilateral interactions into a unique platform for molecular medicine (compare Chapter 3). Four of the research groups are involved in the research cluster and graduate school “SusChemSys”, funded by the EU, the federal state of NRW and industry. The involvement of institute members in DFG projects (incl. “Schwerpunktprogramme” and “Forschergruppen”) and cooperations with industry and academic partners may also be mentioned.