Inspiration for research in the Cook lab derives from the complex challenges presented by natural products. Through the broad study of natural product synthesis, the group seeks to uncover new strategies in synthesis, catalysis and molecular pharmacology. Target molecules are selected for both their elaborate architecture and biological activity. Furthermore, the group's methodology program aims to discover new or improved methods and catalysts for application toward the synthesis of interesting chemical entities.

Total Synthesis

While complex architecture and dense functionality draw our attention to select natural products, molecular beauty alone is insufficient for the Cook lab to embark on a synthesis campaign. Molecules must also possess interesting biological activity in at least one of four therapeutic areas positioned to benefit most from natural product research: oncology, anti-infectives, neurological disorders and Third World ailments (chagas, malaria, etc.). Pharmaceutical companiesí waning interest in natural products reflects the difficulties and costs associated with their synthesis and subsequent structure-activity relationship (SAR) studies. This offers academics the opportunity to develop novel chemical strategies in the context of therapeutic areas fraught with poorly understood biology (oncology and neurological disorders), poor profit potential (Third World ailments) or crowded intellectual property space (anti-infectives).


The search for novel reactivity will lead to new breakthroughs in catalysis. The catalysis research in the Cook Group encompasses a range of "green" metals and non-metals. Research into the reactivity of bismuth, hypervalent iodine, iron and cobalt seeks to discover complementary reactivity to other well explored systems. Our work in palladium catalysis is focused on developing underutilized pathways for palladium to create new reactions and more sustainable carbon-carbon bond-forming transformations. Currently, a number of us are focused on developing the unique reactivity of iron. Together, these projects make up the "green catalysis" working group.