Baran on Total Synthesis

14 April 2018 - Philosophy

Almost written as a counter-essay to the Whitesides article on Organic Synthesis, Phil Baran has expressed his take on total synthesis in a recent JACS editorial. (DOI). The title suggests it is just another propaganda piece: "As Exciting as Ever and Here To Stay" but you cannot blame him. According to Baran, yes total synthesis helps students to prepare for a healthy career in pharma, and yes a new synthetic method is only worth something if applied in a total synthesis.

Baran is also not intimidated by artificial intelligence and process automation, he makes the bold prediction that "that our species will become capable of interplanetary colonization long before rooms of machines dramatically reduce the number of employable synthetic chemists or eliminate them all together". Baran reserves a sneer for bloggers and opinion writers who are all about AI and automation arriving tomorrow but the scientists who know better than that either are "too busy doing science (...) or simply dont have a platform". Also a special sneer for Lee Cronin, Baran articles tend to have "less headline grabbing potential than 3-D printing drugs".