Azadirachtin Done

Azadirachtin structure

Steve Ley and his team (some 40 PhD students over the last two decades) have finally cracked the total synthesis of the natural insecticide azadirachtin. This hugely complex natural product extracted from the Indian neem tree put up quite a struggle from the year it was isolated (1968) till its structure was unequivocally elucidated (seventeen years later) till the publication of Ley’s paper in Angewandte Chemie outlining the 64-step strategy for making it from standard starting materials. Check out the Angewandte press site for a more detailed write-up and the paper itself for full details of the completion of these chemical odyssey.


  1. Venkat

    Dr.T.R. Govindachari was my professor in the Presidency College in Chennai 50 years ago. He was considered the neem expert even then. This molecule could be renamed after him as “Govindirachtin”


  2. David Bradley

    Interesting idea. Perhaps you could organise a petition and approach IUPAC with the suggestion. I have a contact I could ask whether this kind of change is ever possible.

  3. David Bradley

    I spoke with the RSC’s Alan McNaught who is on the IUPAC committee and he explained how such a name change might not come about.

    “IUPAC doesn’t have a mechanism for approving so-called trivial names for natural products (i.e. names that you can’t immediately decode to a structure) – it’s for the community to reach informal consensus over such matters, and then for IUPAC to use such names as basis for naming natural product parent hydrides.

    I think it would be next to impossible to persuade the community that this kind of thing should be handled in a more formal way – usually the ‘discoverer’ comes up with a name that the community accepts. In fact there are surprisingly few cases where more than one name is widely used for a new natural product. My feeling is that it would be very difficult to get people using a different name instead of the well-established azadirachtin, however well-founded the arguments for doing so (never mind the potential literature confusion).”

    So, sorry Venkat, I think we’ll have to find an alternative method of honoring the name of Dr T.R. Govindachari.