Paul Helquist


385 Stepan Chemistry
Notre Dame, IN 46556
+1 574-631-7822

Research Areas

  • Organic Chemistry

Research Specialties

  • Medicine
  • Synthesis

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Year Title
1984-present Professor, University of Notre Dame
1984-1986 Professor, State University of New York at Stony Brook
1980-1984 Associate Professor, State University of New York at Stony Brook
1974-1980 Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, State University of New York at Stony Brook
1973-1974 Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University
1972 Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry, Cornell University
1969 B.A. in Chemistry, University of Minnesota, Duluth

Selected Awards

2020, 2009   Joyce Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

2011-2012   Tage Erlander Guest Professor of the Swedish National Research Council, University of Gothenburg and University of Stockholm

2010   Faculty Award, University of Notre Dame

2005, 2002   Kaneb Teaching Award

Research Interests

Professor Helquist's research group is concerned with two broad areas: (1) the development of new methods in synthetic organic chemistry, including the preparation, structural study, and applications of new transition metal organometallic complexes as catalysts and reagents for asymmetric synthesis; and (2) the structure, synthesis, mechanism of action, and pharmaceutical development of biologically active compounds including antibiotics and antitumor agents, many of which have their origins as natural products. Often we take advantage of the interface between these two areas by applying some of our new methods, reagents, and catalysts in the synthesis of targeted natural products.

We have developed numerous synthetic methods employing iron, nickel, copper, rhodium, palladium, titanium, zirconium, magnesium, lithium, zinc, and samarium compounds as reagents or catalysts. We have employed many of these methods in the synthesis of complex natural products. Coupled with this organometallic work is the rational design of chiral transition metal catalysts through use of molecular mechanics computational techniques. Through use of this approach, we have succeeded in obtaining metal complexes that can be employed in metal-catalyzed reactions to give products with >99% enantiomeric excess.

In the area of total synthesis, our laboratory studies compounds that show promise of being developed into clinically useful antibiotics and anti-cancer agents. For several of the compounds that we study, the full structures have not been determined previously, and we therefore begin our work by employing high-field NMR and molecular mechanics computational techniques to determine the full, three-dimensional structures of these compounds. In the course of then pursuing total syntheses of these compounds, we often develop new methods. With synthetic materials in hand, we study structure-activity relationships and mechanisms of action. We employ this knowledge to obtain modified forms of the natural products to improve therapeutic properties, leading to the development of new pharmaceutical products. Some of our most recent derivatives are highly potent antibiotics that are active against a range of bacteria that are resistant to other classes of antibiotics.

Selected Publications

  • Purohit, V.; Steussy, C. N.; Rosales, A. R.; Critchelow, C. J.; Schmidt, T.; Helquist, P.; Wiest, O.; Mesecar, A.; Cohen, A. E. and Stauffacher, C. V. "pH-Dependent Reaction Triggering in PmHMGR Crystals for Time-Resolved Crystallography" 2024 Biophysical Journal, 123 (5), pp.622-637. DOI: 10.1016/j.bpj.2024.02.003.
  • Maloney, M. P.; Stenfors, B. A.; Helquist, P.; Norrby, P. O. and Wiest, O. "Interplay of Computation and Experiment in Enantioselective Catalysis: Rationalization, Prediction, and-Correction?" 2023 ACS Catalysis, 13 (21), pp.14285-14299. DOI: 10.1021/acscatal.3c03921.
  • Patel, H. N.; Haines, B. E.; Stauffacher, C. V.; Helquist, P. and Wiest, O. "Computational Study of Base-Catalyzed Thiohemiacetal Decomposition in Pseudomonas Mevalonii HMG-CoA Reductase" 2023 Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 127 (22), pp.4931-4938. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcb.2c08969.
  • Maloney, M. P.; Coley, C. W.; Genheden, S.; Carson, N.; Helquist, P.; Norrby, P. O. and Wiest, O. "Negative Data in Data Sets for Machine Learning Training" 2023 Journal of Organic Chemistry, 88 (9), pp.5239-5241. DOI: 10.1021/acs.joc.3c00844.
  • Waters, M.; Hopf, J.; Tam, E.; Wallace, S.; Chang, J.; Bennett, Z.; Aquino, H.; Roeder, R. K.; Helquist, P.; Stack, M. S. and Nallathamby, P. D. "Biocompatible, Multi-Mode, Fluorescent, T-2 MRI Contrast Magnetoelectric-Silica Nanoparticles (MagSiNs), for on-Demand Doxorubicin Delivery to Metastatic Cancer Cells" 2022 Pharmaceuticals, 15 (10), 1216. DOI: 10.3390/ph15101216.
  • Wahlers, J.; Rosales, A. R.; Berkel, N.; Forbes, A.; Helquist, P.; Norrby, P. O. and Wiest, O. "A Quantum-Guided Molecular Mechanics Force Field for the Ferrocene Scaffold" 2022 Journal of Organic Chemistry, 87 (18), pp.12334-12341. DOI: 10.1021/acs.joc.2c01553.