Andrew L Lawrence

2023 United Kingdom Award Finalist — Faculty

Andrew L Lawrence

Current Position:
Professor of Organic Chemistry

The University of Edinburgh

Organic Chemistry

Recognized for: Elegant and efficient total syntheses of naturally-occurring, bio-active molecules that hold promise for the development of treatments for various diseases.

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: Organic Chemistry, Total Synthesis, Synthetic Chemistry

Previous Positions:

MChem, University of Oxford, UK
DPhil, University of Oxford, UK
Postdoctoral Researcher, Australian National University, Australia
Independent Research Fellow, Australian National University, Australia

Research Summary: Molecules produced by living organisms—plants, fungi, animals, bacteria—are often referred to by scientists as natural products. Chemists have long been interested in the study of natural products because of their useful medicinal properties. In the clinic, natural products have been used to treat everything from bacterial infections to late-stage cancers. Some, like morphine and penicillin, can be made commercially directly from the cultivation and processing of plants and fungi, respectively. However, other natural products are very difficult to isolate from natural sources and must be synthesized in the laboratory.

Andrew Lawrence, DPhil, has dramatically improved the way in which natural products are synthesized in the laboratory by developing extremely efficient synthetic strategies that mimic the way living organisms produce these highly complex structures. Focusing on synthetic efficiency—defined here as the fewest number of synthetic steps necessary to synthesize a natural product—provides major advantages to chemists: it allows for more of the compound to be produced, it saves time and energy, and it provides flexibility for the study of unnatural analogues—molecules that possess small structural changes that can lead to improved physiological effects. Lawrence is credited with the synthesis of over 20 natural products, including brevianamide A, the synthesis of which had eluded chemists for over fifty years. These state-of-the-art syntheses hold the potential to be utilized in the production and manufacturing of new drug candidates.

"We are working to improve the science and art of synthetic chemistry by taking inspiration from the natural world. We develop syntheses of complex natural products that hold the potential to solve the major health challenges facing humanity."

Key Publications: 

  1. R.C. Godfrey, N.J. Green, G.S. Nichol, A.L. Lawrence. Total Synthesis of Brevianamide A. Nat. Chem., 2020.
  2. N.J. Green, C.A. Connolly, K.P.W. Rietdijk, G.S. Nichol, F. Duarte, A.L. Lawrence. Bio-inspired Domino oxa-Michael/ Diels–Alder/oxa-Michael Dimerization of para-Quinols.Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. 2018.
  3. De Silvestro, S.L. Drew, G.S. Nichol, F. Duarte, A.L. Lawrence. Total Synthesis of a Dimeric Thymol Derivative Isolated from Arnica sachalinensis. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. 2017. 
  4. P.D. Brown, A.C.Willis, M.S. Sherburn, A.L. Lawrence. Total Synthesis and Structural Revision of the Alkaloid Incargranine B. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. 2013.

Other Honors: 

2018 Young Investigator Distinction Award, BMOS-Royal Society of Chemistry
2017 Hickinbottom Award, Royal Society of Chemistry
2016 Thieme Chemistry Journals Award

In the Media: 

Behind the PaperTotal Synthesis of Brevianamide A

Chemistry ViewsNew Route to Polycyclic Molecules

Chemistry WorldKingianin A