K. C. Nicolaou

Kyriacos Costa Nicolaou (Greek: Κυριάκος Κ. Νικολάου) is a Cypriot-American chemist known for his research in the area of natural products total synthesis. He is currently Harry C. and Olga K. Wiess Professor of Chemistry at Rice University, having previously held academic positions at The Scripps Research Institute/UC San Diego and the University of Pennsylvania.

K. C. Nicolaou
BornJuly 5, 1946 (1946-07-05) (age 73)
ResidenceHouston, United States
Alma materUniversity College London
Known forTotal synthesis
Total synthesis of Taxol
Scientific career
InstitutionsRice University

Scripps Research Institute
University of California, San Diego
University of Pennsylvania

Doctoral studentsTushar Kanti Chakraborty
Other notable studentsPhil Baran


K. C. Nicolaou was born on July 5, 1946, in Karavas, Cyprus where he grew up and went to school until the age of 18. In 1964, he went to England where he spent two years learning English and preparing to enter University. He studied chemistry at the University of London. (B.Sc., 1969, Bedford College; Ph.D. 1972, University College London, with Professors F. Sondheimer and P. J. Garratt). In 1972, he moved to the United States and, after postdoctoral appointments at Columbia University (1972–1973, Professor T. J. Katz) and Harvard University (1973–1976, Professor E. J. Corey), he joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania where he became the Rhodes-Thompson Professor of Chemistry. While at Penn, he won the prestigious Sloan Fellowship.

In 1989, he relocated to San Diego, where he took up a joint appointment at the University of California, San Diego, where he served as Professor of Chemistry, and The Scripps Research Institute, where he was Darlene Shiley Professor of Chemistry and Chairman of the Department of Chemistry. In 1996, he was appointed Aline W. and L.S. Skaggs Professor of Chemical Biology in The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, The Scripps Research Institute. From 2005 to 2011, he directed Chemical Synthesis Laboratory @ ICES-A*STAR, Singapore. In 2013, Nicolaou moved to Rice University.

The Nicolaou group is active in the field of organic chemistry with research interests in methodology development and total synthesis. He is responsible for the synthesis of many complex molecules found in nature, such as Taxol and vancomycin. His group's route to Taxol, completed in 1994 at roughly the same time as a synthesis by the group of Robert A. Holton, attracted national news media attention due to Taxol's structural complexity and its potent anti-cancer activity.[1][2]

Total syntheses accomplished


He is also the co-author of three popular books on total synthesis:

  1. Classics in Total Synthesis I, 1996
  2. Classics in Total Synthesis II, 2003
  3. Classics in Total Synthesis III, 2011

Additionally, he authored or co-authored several other books:

  1. Molecules That Changed the World, 2008
  2. Handbook of Combinatorial Chemistry: Drugs, Catalysts, Materials, 2002
  3. Selenium in Natural Products Synthesis, 1984


K. C. Nicolaou has received numerous awards and honors including:


  1. Borman, Stu (21 February 1994). "Total Synthesis of Anticancer Agent Taxol Achieved by Two Different Routes". Chemical & Engineering News. doi:10.1021/cen-v072n008.p032.
  2. Blakeslee, Sandra (15 February 1994). "Race to Synthesize Cancer Drug Molecule Has Photo Finish". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 August 2013.
  3. "Arthur C. Cope Award". ACS. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  4. "New Fellows 2013". Royal Society. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
  1. ^ Nicolaou, Kyriacos Costa; E. J. Sorensen (1996). Classics in Total Synthesis: Targets, Strategies, Methods. Wiley-VCH. ISBN 978-3-527-29231-8.
  2. ^ Nicolaou, Kyriacos Costa; S. A. Snyder (2003). Classics in Total Synthesis II: More Targets, Strategies, Methods. Wiley-VCH. ISBN 978-3-527-30684-8.
  3. ^ Nicolaou, Kyriacos Costa; J.S. Chen (2011). Classics in Total Synthesis III: Further Targets, Strategies, Methods. Wiley-VCH. ISBN 978-3-527-32957-1.
  4. ^ "Benjamin Franklin Medal in Chemistry". Franklin Institute. 2011. Archived from the original on July 30, 2012. Retrieved December 23, 2011.
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