Research Guides



Research within the Davies group is concerned with investigations into a wide variety of topics including the development of new synthetic methodology, catalysis, mechanistic investigations, total synthesis and collaborative projects in medicinal chemistry. For example, this includes  new applications for the conjugate addition of enantiopure lithium amides, development of kinetic resolution processes for the preparation of functionalised molecular building blocks, new methods for nucleophilic fluorination, methodology for the chemoselective functionalisation of unsaturated amines at the olefin (rather than the nitrogen atom), and application of these methodologies to the total synthesis of natural products of biological significance (including pyrrolidines, piperidines, tropanes, pyrrolizidines, and imino- and aminosugars).

Synthetic Methodolgy

(i) Lithium Amide Conjugate Addition

Chiral lithium amides have been extensively used and studied within organic synthesis as effective reagents for a range of transformations including enantioselective reduction, alkylation, deprotonation, desymmetrisation and kinetic resolution. Lithium amides may also act as nucleophiles. Within this arena, we have shown that the conjugate addition of a range of secondary lithium amides, derived from enantiopure α-methylbenzylamine, to α,β-unsaturated esters represents an efficient method for the preparation of β-amino esters and their derivatives (including β-amino acids and various alkaloids). We have exploited this reaction in a range of synthetic applications, including the initiation of tandem processes, enantiorecognition phenomena, and total synthesis. More information is available here.

Lithium Amide Conjugate Addition Methodology

Key Publication:
The conjugate addition of enantiomerically pure lithium amides as chiral ammonia equivalents part II: 2005–2011
Davies, S. G.; Fletcher, A. M.; Roberts, P. M.; Thomson, J. E. Tetrahedron: Asymmetry 2012, 23, 1111
[View Journal Page]

(ii) Ammonium Directed Oxidation of Allylic Amines

Treatment of allylic amines with acid followed by m-CPBA gives the corresponding amino diols as the major products, consistent with hydrogen-bond directed attack of the peracid to give the corresponding epoxide, followed by regioselective ring-opening. This metal free sequence of reactions leads to very highly diastereoselective transformations in both cyclic and acyclic systems. We have used this methodology as the key synthetic step to enable the asymmetric syntheses of iminosugars such as (+)-1-deoxynojirimycin and aminosugars such as L-acosamine. More information is available here.

Ammonium Directed Oxidation

Key Publication:
Concise and selective asymmetric synthesis of acosamine from sorbic acid
Bagal, S. K.; Davies, S. G.; Fletcher, A. M.; Lee, J. A.; Roberts, P. M.; Scott, P. M.; Thomson, J. E. Tetrahedron Lett. 2011, 52, 2216 [View Journal Page]

(iii)  Ring-closing iodoamination

Treatment of a range of unsaturated amines with iodine promotes ring-closing iodoamination with concomitant N-debenzylation, providing an efficient and stereoselective route to azacycles such as pyrrolidines, pyrrolizidines and tropanes. This methodology has been used in a series of natural product syntheses including (‒)-7a-epi-hyacinthacine A1, (+)-pseudococaine and (‒)-codonopsinine. More information is available here.

Ring-closing Iodoamination Methodology

Key Publication:
Asymmetric synthesis of polyhydroxylated pyrrolizidines via transannular iodoamination with concomitant N-debenzylation
Brock, E. A.; Davies, S. G.; Lee, J. A.; Roberts, P. M.; Thomson, J. E. Org. Lett. 2011, 13, 1594
[View Journal Page]

Total Synthesis

We have utilised the methodology developed in the group in total syntheses of a range of enantiopure compounds including natural products, their analogues and other potential therapeutic agents. Recently completed syntheses include (+)-pseudococaine, (−)-absouline, (−)-angustueine, (+)-pseudodistomin D, (+)-1-deoxynojirimycin, (−)-nakinadine D, (−)-codonopsinine and (−)-hopromalinol. More information, including more examples of recent target syntheses, is available here.

Total Synthesis of Natural Products


Medicinal Chemistry

There is huge potential for chemistry to have an enormous impact on the biological and medicinal world. We have several highly successful multidisciplinary research collaborations including the development of small molecules to determine stem cell fate, novel protein tyrosine phosphatase inhibitors for treatment of cancer and transcriptional upregulation of utrophin in the treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). More information is available here.

Medicinal Chemistry Programmes


Selected Publications

Steve has published over 590 papers, and has an h-index (Web of Science) of 61. A full list of his publications is available here; the ten most recent papers are shown below.


(592).  Trading N and O. Part 4: Asymmetric synthesis of syn-β-substituted-α-amino acids
Davies, S. G.; Fletcher, A. M.; Greenaway, C. J.; Kennedy, M. S.; Mayer, C.; Roberts, P. M.; Thomson, J. E.
Tetrahedron, 2018, DOI: 10.1016/j.tet.2018.04.071 [View Journal Page]

(591).  Stereoselective ammonium-directed epoxidation in the asymmetric syntheses of dihydroconduramines (−)-A-2, (−)-B-2,
(−)-C-3 and (+)-F-3
Da Silva Pinto, S.; Davies, S. G.; Fletcher, A. M.; Roberts, P. M.; Thomson, J. E. Synthesis 201850, 64
[View Journal Page]

(590).  The conjugate addition of enantiomerically pure lithium amides as chiral ammonia equivalents part III: 2012-2017
Davis, S. G.; Fletcher, A. M.; Roberts, P. M.; Thomson, J. E. Tetrahedron: Asymmetry 201728, 1842
[View Journal Page]

(589).  Asymmetric synthesis of 3-deoxy-3-aminosphingoid bases:approaches based on parallel kinetic resolution and double asymmetric induction
Csatayová, K.; Davies, S. G.; Fletcher, A. M.; Fowler, T. R.; Kennedy, M. S.; Roberts, P. M.; Thomson, J. E. 
J. Org. Chem. 201782, 12447 [View Journal Page]

(588).  Asymmetric synthesis of the N-terminal α-hydroxy-β-amino acid components of microginins 612, 646 and 680
Davies, S. G.; Fletcher, A. M.; Hanby, A. R.; Roberts, P. M.; Thomson, J. E. Tetrahedron: Asymmetry 
201728, 1756  [View Journal Page]

(587).  Probing competitive and co-operative hydroxyl and ammonium hydrogen-bonding directed epoxidations
Brambilla, M.; Brennan, M. B.; Csatayová, K.; Davies, S. G.; Fletcher, A. M.; Kennett, A. M. R.; Lee, J. A.; Roberts, P. M.;
Russell, A. J.; Thomson, J. E. J. Org. Chem. 2017, 82, 10297 [View Journal Page]

(586).  Structural revision of the Hancock alkaloid (−)-galipeine
Davies, S. G.; Fletcher, A. M.; Houlsby, I. T. T.; Roberts, P. M.; Thomson, J. E. J. Org. Chem. 201782, 10673
[View Journal Page]

(585).  Tetrafluoroborate salt fluorination for preparing alkyl fluorides
Davies, S. G.; Roberts P. M. In Synthetic Organofluorine Chemistry. Fluorination; Hu, J.; Umemoto, T., Eds.; Springer, 2017.
[View Volume Abstract]

(584).  Solid state conformations of α,β-unsaturated hydroxamates derived from the ‘chiral Weinreb amide’ auxiliary
Davies, S. G.; Lee, J. A.; Roberts, P. M.; Thomson, J. E.; Yin, J. Tetrahedron: Asymmetry 2017, 28, 1337 [View Journal Page]

(583).  Asymmetric ortho-deprotonation of (η6-arene) chromium tricarbonyl complexes substituted with a chiral hydroxylamine
Da Costa, M. R. G.; Curto, M. J. M.; Davies, S. G.; Teixeira, F. C.; Thomson, J. E. Tetrahedron 201773, 5411 
[View Journal Page]






Professor S.G. Davies

Organic Chemistry

Professor Stephen G. Davies

Research Group Web Pages

Professor Stephen G. Davies
Waynflete Professor of Chemistry
Chemistry Research Laboratory
University of Oxford
Mansfield Road
OX1 3TA, U.K.

T: +44 (0)1865 275695
F: +44 (0)1865 275633

X-ray crystal structure of a beta-peptide helix


Download a copy of our 
Part II Open Day Poster