The Johnson Group at UNC Chapel Hill

Vision: Be an international leader in the development of new tools applicable to problems in organic and medicinal chemistry.

Goals: Develop cutting edge synthetic methods and share our results with the scientific community in publications, at conferences, and through outreach.

Values: Cultivate an environment that encourages, expects, and celebrates excellence, and welcomes diverse people, ideas, and experiences.

Group News

Recent Research

Additions of carbon nucleophiles to racemic α-stereogenic β-oxo acid derivatives that deliver enantiomerically enriched tertiary alcohols are valuable, but uncommon. This article describes stereodivergent Cu-catalyzed borylative cyclizations of racemic β-oxo acid derivatives bearing tethered pro-nucleophilic olefins to deliver highly functionalized cyclopentanols containing four contiguous stereogenic centers. The reported protocol is applicable to a range of β-oxo acid derivatives, and the diastereomeric products are readily isolable by typical chromatographic techniques. α-Stereogenic-β-keto esters are typically thought to have extreme or spontaneous configurational fragility, but mechanistic studies for this system reveal an unusual scenario wherein productive catalysis occurs on the same time scale as background substrate racemization and completely outcompetes on-cycle epimerization, even under the basic conditions of the reaction.

Arene cyclopropanation offers a direct route to higher-order, non-aromatic carbocycles; however, the inherent issue of dictating site selectivity has cumbered the development of novel intermolecular reactions that directly engage the arene pool. This paper describes a highly regio- and stereoselective, Rh2[(S)-PTTL]4-catalyzed arene cyclopropanation using α-cyanodiazoacetates to afford stable norcaradienes bearing three stereogenic centers, one of which is an all-carbon quaternary center. The enantioenriched norcaradienes served as tunable templates for further transformation into stereochemically dense, fused and bicyclic carbocycles containing transmutable functionality.