Eelco Ruijter received an NWO ECHO grant (€ 260,000) to study reactions to efficiently make complex cyclic molecules with precise control over their stereochemistry.

Nature produces a myriad of complex polycyclic molecules with remarkable biological activities. However, the availability of these compounds from their natural sources is often limited. In addition, it is mostly not possible to modify the structure to optimize e.g. the medicinal properties of such molecules. Synthetic organic chemistry allows the production of both the natural products and suitably modified derivatives. However, the construction of such complex frameworks typically requires a very high number of synthetic steps, making the overall production process very inefficient. Cascade reactions, i.e. reactions that create multiple new chemical bonds in a single operation, represent an important tool to make synthetic strategies toward valuable molecules more efficient, and thus more sustainable. A particular challenge in this context is the control over the stereochemistry of these molecules.
In this project, Eelco Ruijter will extend his research line on cascade cyclization reactions to develop a stereoselective cascade using transition metal catalysis to produce complex bicyclic molecules with full stereochemical control. This research will facilitate the efficient synthesis of natural products of medicinal interest as well as the creation of various new non-planar scaffolds for drug discovery.


The ECHO programme facilitates curiosity-driven research by excellent researchers in chemistry. This allows creative, risky ideas to be pursued. These may be the seeds for future research themes and thus scientific innovation.