Catalysis to enable biology: chemical challenges in the manufacture of complex small molecules


  • Date: 25th March, 2024
  • Time: 10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.
  • Venue: SB220
  • Lecturer: Professor Joseph Sweeney
  • Title: Catalysis to enable biology: chemical challenges in the manufacture of complex small molecules


Many small molecules have biological activity; manufacturing these molecules in an efficient and sustainable manner is a challenge for chemists, especially for low-molecular weight compounds, whose preparation is often accompanied by unsustainable cost burdens, and high-carbon waste footprints. This lecture will describe the development and use of novel catalytic methods to access bioactive small molecule chemical space.


Joe was a first-in-family to university, reading Chemistry at Imperial College, before completing a doctorate in synthetic organic chemistry at the University of Oxford, working with Prof. Sir Jack Baldwin, FRS. He then started his professional career as a Royal Society Fellow at the ETH Zürich, before returning to the UK to become a lecturer at the University of Leicester. He then worked at the Universities of Bristol (as lecturer) and Reading (becoming Professor in 2007), before moving to take up a research chair at University of Huddersfield in 2011. In 2018 he took up a chair at Lancaster University, where he was head of Chemistry, and co-chair of the EDI Strategy Group of the faculty of Science and Technology. Most recently, he was Dean of the Faculty of Science, Engineering, and Environment at the University of Salford (2021) before joining the University of Liverpool as Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor in November 2023.

Joe is a highly experienced teacher and researcher, working in a broad range of areas, including catalysis, enantioselective synthesis, medicinal chemistry (working on new chemical matter for treating motor neurone disease, and novel nucleotide analogues), and chemical imaging; he has worked extensively with industry (most recently on UKRI-funded collaborations focused on sustainability and contemporary recycling technologies) and has published more than 100 outputs in internationally renowned peer-reviewed journals (including Nature Chemistry, Journal of the American Chemical Society, and Angewandte Chemie). Throughout his career Joe has worked with a range of stakeholders and third sector partners. He founded and chairs the Royal Society’s Industry Fellows College, and has been a member of a range of UK government committees (most recently with the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy – BEIS).

You may be interested.