Ton Vries Awards 2021 – Winner Announcement

The Ton Vries (Innovation) Award is new within Symeres and is dedicated to the person who, after more than 20 years of being a CEO of Syncom, has stepped down from his role to continue as Head of Technology and Innovation. Ton has a huge passion for chemistry and chirality and can really see the beauty in a project.

It is an annual award and consists of a challenge trophy for the winner and a smaller trophy for the finalists. The criteria to receive this award are that it is a chemistry project that applies an innovative solution, impacts on the company (e.g. reputation, financial), results in customer satisfaction or shows beauty/elegance in the chemistry/solution.

On Wednesday April 28, the very first award ceremony was held at our site in Groningen and the three finalists presented their projects. The ceremony on site was with a small group of people and the rest of the colleagues watched the ceremony online. Each team represented one of our sites: Groningen, Nijmegen, and Weert/Prague. Hereby, we are pleased to inform you that the winner of the ‘Ton Vries Award’ 2021 is Cati Ferrer.

My name is Cati Ferrer; I have been working for Symeres for ten years. Before that, I did my Ph.D. at the Institute of Chemical Research (ICIQ) in Tarragona (Spain), under the supervision of Prof. Antonio Echavarren, working on gold catalysis. I then did a post-doc at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) in Barcelona on asymmetric catalysis and a second one at the University of Groningen (RUG) on the total synthesis of lipids.

On a personal level, I have two sons, who are four and six years old. I enjoy spending time with my family, cooking, reading, and going for walks in the forest.

For almost four years, I've been a project leader in the Process Research and Development group of Jos Hulshof. I am involved in several projects where I support chemists in the lab to meet the needs of our clients. I really enjoy discussing with our clients the best approach to achieve their goals.

The project was part of an ambitious medicinal chemistry program featuring complex chiral molecules. Due to the complexity of the compounds, the client was interested in developing novel synthetic routes in an early stage of the program to be able to access larger amounts of material.

The team was composed of an enthusiastic and motivated group of people! We have been working together for about two years on this program and several people have been involved, colleagues of all ages, men and women, seven different nationalities, all sharing a passion for chemistry and the excitement of solving problems.

Our role in this project was to drive route scouting and optimization of synthetic routes for further scale up of various building blocks and final compounds.

The complexity of the molecules was already a challenge in itself! We were facing chirality and selectivity issues, together with the need to simplify the isolation and purification of the molecules.

We developed several resolutions of diastereomeric mixtures via selective salt formation. This immediately translates into the possibility to scale up reactions, since the need for tedious separations by column chromatography or even preparative SFC are eliminated. It is a quick and elegant access to larger amounts of compound that allows for faster development of the program. In addition, we could also develop a late-stage C–H functionalization reaction, which opens possibilities for the faster generation of libraries of compounds in the program.


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