University of Pittsburgh
March 18, 2010

Pitt Professor's Noted Three-Decade Career in Chemistry Earns Place Among 8 Esteemed Scientists to Be Named Honorary Doctors at Paris' University of Pierre and Marie Curie

Dennis P. Curran, a Distinguished Service Professor of Chemistry and pioneering researcher in radical and fluorous chemistry, will be recognized during a March 26 ceremony at the Sorbonne with fellow awardees, including a Nobel laureate and the president of MIT
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-In recognition of a three-decade career that includes pioneering contributions to organic chemistry, Pitt chemistry professor Dennis P. Curran is among eight scientists worldwide selected to receive an honorary doctorate from France's eminent University of Pierre and Marie Curie during a March 26 ceremony at the Sorbonne in Paris.

The Parisian university's biennial award recognizes eight scientists for their contributions to their fields and dedication to academic values. The largest and most revered scientific and medical institution in France, the university has conferred about 130 honorary doctorates since establishing the award in 1975. Curran's fellow 2010 recipients include one Nobel Prize winner, two researchers from Oxford University, the head of the European Laboratory of Molecular Biology, and the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A Distinguished Service and Bayer professor of chemistry in Pitt's School of Arts and Sciences, Curran has written approximately 400 papers, been granted 30 patents, and has had two books published since joining Pitt in 1981. His work revolves around synthetic chemistry, particularly radical and fluorous chemistry. Curran is one of the pioneers of organic radical chemistry, using radical reactions to initiate cascade processes wherein complex molecules are organically produced from simple materials. For example, his lab recently developed a radical synthesis that created several new drugs in the camptothecin class of anticancer agents. One drug, AR-67, is currently in clinical trials for treatment of solid tumors.

Fluorous synthesis allows for faster generation of new chemical compounds. Prior to a reaction, the starting organic molecules are marked with a corresponding series of highly fluorinated tags. The molecules are then mixed and converted over several reactions to new, more complex products. The key feature of Curran's process is that the fluorous tags allow for the organic compounds to be separated after the reactions, an otherwise arduous process. In the end, a single synthesis yields several pure compounds that would traditionally require separate reactions to produce. Curran founded the company Fluorous Technologies Inc. 10 years ago to develop fluorous products; the Pittsburgh-based company now has approximately 10 full-time employees.

Curran also has received, among other awards, the Blaise Pascal International Research Chair, which goes to renowned foreign researchers and is awarded by the regional government of Ile-de-France (metro Paris). In 2009, he joined 162 scientists in the inaugural class of American Chemical Society Fellows. Curran received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Boston College in 1975 and earned his PhD degree from the University of Rochester in 1979. He completed his postdoctoral studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1981.

More information on Curran's research is available on his Pitt laboratory Web site at www.radical.chem.pitt.edu

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