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IN THEIR OWN WORDS: The Davis and Beirut professors

By Dave Jones on August 29, 2013 in University

Chemistry professors Mark Kurth, UC Davis, and Makhluf Haddadin, American University of Beirut, write about their work on the Davis-Beirut Reaction. See separate story about the Davis City Council proclamation, approved earlier this week, acknowledging the rewards of international collaboration and the honor that comes with having the city's name in the scientific literature.

It is unusual to have an organic chemistry reaction discovery progress to the point of warranting its being a named reaction. It is an honor bestowed on a process with broad application and wide utility.

The Davis-Beirut Reaction converts a 2-nitrobenzylamine to a 2H-indazole by simple treatment with aqueous base in an alcoholic solvent. While simple to effect, the mechanism by which the reaction proceeds is intriguing and makes the new ring by a nitrogen-nitrogen bond-forming process.

The resulting 2H-indazoles have considerable potential in medicinal applications, and, because of this, our research has the support of the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Tara K. Telford Fund for Cystic Fibrosis Research at UC Davis and American University of Beirut Royalty Funds.

Current efforts with the Davis-Beirut reaction are focused on development of myeloperoxidase inhibitors with implications for people with cystic fibrosis.

Interestingly, our initial efforts on this chemistry were spawned by what appeared to be two incompatible literature reports. Digging into the discrepancies ultimately led to the discovery of the Davis-Beirut Reaction, correction of the chemical literature, and, to the best of our knowledge, the first and only organic reaction named for two cities.

We first published a paper on this chemistry in 2005. Over the ensuing years, a number of talented undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral co-workers have contributed to the unfolding story — both in the chemistry department here at UC Davis (Kurth labs) and in the chemistry department at the American University of Beirut (Haddadin labs).

Of these many, the late Dr. Aaron Mills (2005 Ph.D., UC Davis), who went on to a faculty position at the University of Idaho, was an early contributor in the discovery of the Davis-Beirut Reaction.

Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,