Insecticidal synthesis

Professor Steven Ley of Cambridge University and past and present colleagues, including 40 PhD students have spent more than two decades on a chemical odyssey and have finally achieved a total synthesis of the natural insecticide azadirachtin. This hugely complex natural product was first extracted from the Indian neem tree in 1968, but a definitive structure was only wrought some seventeen years later. Since then several major organic groups across the globe have attempted to synthesise the compound. Ley's team published their 64-step total synthesis in the journal Angewandte Chemie and describe the molecule as an "exceptionally challenging synthetic target by virtue of its sixteen contiguous stereogenic centers and complex pattern of oxygen-containing functionalities."