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Chemical Society Seminar: David Leitch - Developing Catalytic And Flow Processes For Synthesizing Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients – Perspectives From An Industrial-Turned-Academic Chemist


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Many reactions in organic chemistry are extremely complex, with large multivariate parameter spaces and multiple possible mechanistic pathways. During development of synthetic routes toward investigational Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs), my group at GlaxoSmithKline used both high-throughput experimentation and reaction progress analysis in order to map and understand complex reactions. High-throughput experimentation allows for simultaneous interrogation of multiple reaction parameters, illuminating aspects to chemical reactivity that are not apparent during traditional one-variable-at-a-time experimental designs. By combining these insights with kinetic monitoring and stoichiometric reactivity, we have been able to rapidly develop and optimize many complex transformations for API synthesis. Several case studies will be presented, with an emphasis on how insights from target-based API synthesis can lead to more general advances in synthetic methodology.


Dave was raised on Vancouver Island in Port Alberni, and conducted both his undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of British Columbia. He received his PhD in 2010 under the direction of Prof. Laurel Schafer. After postdoctoral appointments at McGill University with Prof. Bruce Arndtsen (2010-2012), and at the California Institute of Technology with Prof. John Bercaw and Dr. Jay Labinger as an NSERC PDF (2012-2014), he migrated to industry, holding positions in pharmaceutical process chemistry R&D at GlaxoSmithKline (2014-2018). He rose to the level of group leader in both catalysis and flow chemistry, working on synthetic problems for predominantly early-phase clinical candidate molecules. In January of 2019, he returned home to Vancouver Island to take up an appointment at the University of Victoria.

Contact Information

Bruce Arndtsen
McGill University
Bruce.Arndtsen [at]
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