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Christopher O'Brien

01642 384592
Job title:
Senior Lecturer in Chemistry
School of Science, Engineering & Design
Science, Engineering and Design research

About Christopher O'Brien

Christopher O'Brien

Christopher O'Brien
Senior Lecturer in Chemistry, School of Science, Engineering & Design
T: 01642 384592
E: c.o'
Research: Science, Engineering and Design research

Dr O'Brien started his academic career at UMIST with a degree in chemistry. He later moved to Sheffield and obtained his PhD under the supervision of Prof. V. K. Aggarwal. Dr O'Brien then undertook employment at Peakdale Molecular Ltd. Dr O’Brien returned to academic chemistry with post-doctoral stints in the groups of Profs D. J. Procter and M. G. Organ. Dr O'Brien began his independent career as an Assistant Professor of Synthetic Organic Chemistry at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) in September 2007. It was at UTA that Dr O'Brien invented the first catalytic Wittig reaction. These studies were continued at Dublin City University as a Lecturer in Organic Chemistry. In October 2014 Dr O'Brien became a Senior Lecturer in Organic Chemistry at Teesside University.

Research interests

Research Interests:

Sustainable, Robust, Selective, Catalytic Methodology
The creation of carbon-carbon and carbon-heteroatom bonds forms the backbone of synthetic routes to agrochemicals, drugs and materials; however, as molecular complexity increases so do the synthetic challenges, for example chemospecificity, diastereo- and enantiocontrol. Indeed, growing numbers of new drug candidates are single diastereomers or enantiomers, which must be produced in high purity. This dictates the expansion of practical methods for routine production of these building blocks. For example, asymmetric induction is usually effected via chiral organic or organometallic molecules. To maximize the cost/benefit ratio, these chiral molecules are increasingly employed as catalysts instead of reagents or auxiliaries. While chiral catalysts have afforded great success, problems persist, for example substrate diversity and synthetic route efficiency to produce the catalyst on small, and more vitally, large-scale (>1 kg). Large-scale production is critical for catalyst adoption by the wider synthetic community. Additionally, environmental concerns increasingly influence chemical decision-making insofar as synthetic route selection, which is impacted by the waste and energy consumption profile of a particular process. Therefore the development of new eco-friendly catalytic methodology, in particular organocatalytic processes that negates the use of highly toxic metals and/or limits the generation of waste and/or downgrades the waste produced, for example from toxic to harmful, would be highly desirable. To satisfy the above, one of the O’Brien Research Group’s aims is to design user-friendly, robust, selective, catalytic methodology that has a low environmental footprint. The Group’s focus is on the design of catalytic distereo- and enantioslective procedures. These goals can be accomplished by the invention of new reaction paradigms or improvement of existing methodology, for example by converting a non-catalytic process into a catalytic one.

Target Oriented Synthesis
In tandem with methodology development the second primary aim of the O’Brien Research Group is to discover new therapeutic drug scaffolds.

Enterprise interests

Dr O’Brien’s enterprise interests focus on the commercialisation of catalytic Wittig reaction, industrial collaborative projects and consultancy. Recently the catalytic Wittig reaction received patent protection in the US and Japan with other jurisdictions to follow.



[1]  C. J. O'Brien, J. L. Tellez, Z. S. Nixon, L. J. Kang, A. L. Carter, S. R. Kunkel, K. C. Przeworski, G. A. Chass, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2009, 48, 6836-6839.

[2]  C. J. O'Brien, F. Lavigne, E. E. Coyle, A. J. Holohan, B. J. Doonan, Chem. Eur. J. 2013, 19, 5854-5858.

[3]  C. J. O'Brien, Z. S. Nixon, A. J. Holohan, S. R. Kunkel, J. L. Tellez, B. J. Doonan, E. E. Coyle, F. Lavigne, L. J. Kang, K. C. Przeworski, Chem. Eur. J. 2013, 19, 15281-15289.

[4]  E. E. Coyle, B. J. Doonan, A. J. Holohan, K. A. Walsh, F. Lavigne, E. H. Krenske, C. J. O'Brien, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2014, 12907-12911.

View Christopher O'Brien's Publications on TeesRep