Kian Tan, Global Discovery Chemistry

Global Discovery Chemistry

Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

A pervasive challenge within medicinal chemistry is the modification of highly-functionalized molecules (e.g., small molecule scaffolds, natural products, and biologics). My group focuses on developing innovative chemistry solutions to expedite the synthesis of critical compounds and to access synthetically challenging scaffolds. To address these issues, my group is interested in discovering practical catalysts to achieve site- and chemo-selectivity in organic reactions. Beyond the chemical transformations, we are engaged in developing more efficient approaches for the optimization of reactions through automation and technology. The combination of addressing industrially-relevant synthetic problems with state-of-the-art technology provides a distinctive space for developing new science.

Our current scientific interests are focused on investigating diversity-building reactions that would be enhanced by site- or chemo-selective catalysis. Because of the ubiquity of C-H bonds in molecules, C-H functionalization offers a fertile area to explore selectivity concepts, while developing useful methodologies. Novartis’s participation in the Center for Selective C-H Functionalization1 (an NSF-sponsored chemical innovation center comprised of top academic researchers) provides a unique opportunity for a postdoctoral scholar to continue interactions with the academic community. For this project, Professor Matt Sigman ( will serve as a collaborator, bringing his expertise in reaction mechanism and optimization. In addition to C-H activation, metal-catalyzed cross-coupling is of great importance to medicinal chemistry, and we are expanding its utility by systematically exploring reactivity patterns of polyfunctionalized substrates.

Selected Publications

Catalyst recognition of cis-1,2-diols enables site-selective functionalization of complex molecules
Sun X, Lee H, Lee S, Tan KL.
Nature Chem. 2013; 9: 790-795.

Meta-selective C-H functionalization using a nitrile-based directing group and cleavable Si-tether
Lee S, Lee H, Tan KL.
J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2013; 135(50), 18778-18781.

Distal-selective hydroformylation using scaffolding catalysis
Joe CL, Blaisdell TP, Geoghan AF, Tan KL.
J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2014; 136(24), 8556-8559.

Click here for additional publications.

1For information on the CCHF see is external) and for commentary Davies, H.M.L.; Morton, D. “C-H Functionalization: Collaborative Methods to Redefine Chemical Logic. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2014, 53, 10256-10258.