Benke HONG, Ph.D.

Laboratory of Plant Secondary Metabolism





Benke HONG, Ph.D.

Laboratory of Plant Secondary Metabolism





Benke Hong was born in 1990 in Wuhu, Anhui province. He received his B.Sc. degree in pharmaceutical engineering from Liaoning University in 2011. He then joined Professor Xiaoguang Lei’s group at the National Institute of Biological Sciences (NIBS) in Beijing and Tianjin University to start his Ph.D. studies on total synthesis of bioactive natural products from plants. After receiving his Ph.D. degree in 2016, he stayed in the Lei’s group at Peking University as a research assistant in chemical biology. In 2019, he moved to Germany as an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellow to conduct his postdoc with Prof. Sarah E. O'Connor to investigate biosynthetic pathway of natural products in medicinal plants. He joined the School of Science of Westlake University in July 2023. His research interests focus on the chemical discovery in plants, including biosynthesis of bioactive molecules in plants, discovery of novel enzymes and the merge of biosynthesis and synthetic chemistry for chemoenzymatic synthesis.


Dr. Hong’s research interests include the bioinspired synthesis and biosynthesis of bioactive natural products from medicinal plants. Using the state-of-art synthetic methodology, such as organocatalysis and C-H activation, biomimetic strategies were developed to enable the efficient synthesis of plant-derived bioactive natural products, including neuroactive Lycopodium alkaloids and (-)-incarviatone A, Isodon diterpenoids and meroterpene (+)-hyperforin.

Chemical logic, -omics datasets and transient expression approaches were applied to discover all of the essential biosynthetic genes of strychnine biosynthesis in medicinal plant Strychnos nux-vomica. Additionally, a single amino acid change in two acyltransferases was disclosed that leads to a switch between strychnine and diaboline production in Strychnos nux-vomica and Strychnos sp.. The findings provide a genetic basis for heterologous production of strychnos alkaloid derivatives to discover potent lead compounds through metabolic engineering approaches.

Selected honors and awards

Participation in the 71st Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Chemistry, 2022

Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellowship, 2019-2021

China National Scholarship of Graduate Students, 2015

NIBS (National Institute of Biological Sciences, Beijing) Outstanding Graduate Student Award, 2014

Representative Publications (equal contribution)

1. Benke Hong, Dagny Grzech, Lorenzo Caputi, Prashant Sonawane, Carlos E. Rodríguez López, Mohamed Omar Kamileen, Néstor J. Hernández Lozada, Veit Grabe, Sarah E. O’Connor*, Biosynthesis of strychnine, Nature 2022, 607, 617-622.

• Highlighted by Bethany Halford in Chem. & Eng. News.

• Highlighted by Thoma West in Nat. Synth. 2022, 1, 581.

• Highlighted by Jonathan R. Chekan in Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2022, 61, e202212301.

2. Yunpeng Ji, Benke Hong, Ivan Franzoni, Mengyang Wang,, Weiqiang Guan, Hongli Jia, Houhua Li*, Enantioselective Total Synthesis of Hyperforin and Pyrohyperforin, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2022, 61, e202116136.

• Highlighted by Erick M. Carreira and Marlene Fadel in Synfacts 2022, 18, 0463.

3. Weilong Liu, Benke Hong, Jin Wang, and Xiaoguang Lei*, New Strategies in the Efficient Total Syntheses of Polycyclic Natural Products, Acc. Chem. Res. 2020, 53, 2569–2586.

4. Benke Hong, Tuoping Luo, Xiaoguang Lei*, Late-Stage Diversification of Natural Products, ACS Cent. Sci. 2020, 6, 622-635.

5. Jin Wang, Benke Hong, Dachao Hu, Yuichiro Kadonaga, Ruyao Tang, Xiaoguang Lei*, Protecting-Group-Free Syntheses of ent-Kaurane Diterpenoids: [3+2+1] Cycloaddition/Cyclo-alkenylation Approach, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2020, 142, 2238-2243.

• Highlighted by Erick M. Carreira and Moritz J. Classen in Synfacts 2020, 16, 0375.

6. Benke Hong, Weilong Liu, Jin Wang, Jinbao Wu, Yuichiro Kadonaga, Pei-Jun Cai, Hong-Xiang Lou, Zhi-Xiang Yu, Houhua Li*, and Xiaoguang Lei*, Photoinduced skeletal rearrangements reveal radical-mediated synthesis of terpenoids, Chem 2019, 5, 1671-1681.

Highlighted in Chem 2019, 5, 1368-1370.

Highlighted in Synform 2020, 02, A19–A22.

7. Benke Hong, Dachao Hu, Jinbao Wu, Jing Zhang, Houhua li, Yingming Pan, Xiaoguang Lei*, Divergent Total Syntheses of (-)-Huperzine Q, (+)-Lycopladine B, (+)-Lycopladine C, and (-)-4-epi-Lycopladine D, Chem. Asian J. 2017, 12, 1557-1567.

• Selected as a Very Important Paper (VIP).

8. Benke Hong, Ting Dong, Xiaoguang Lei*, Recent advances in target identification by natural product based chemical probes, Sci. China Chem. 2016, 59, 1088-1092.

9. Benke Hong, Chao Li, Zhen Wang, Jie Chen, Houhua Li*, Xiaoguang Lei*, Enantioselective Total Synthesis of (−)-Incarviatone A, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2015, 137, 11946−11949.

• Highlighted by Stu Borman in Chem. & Eng. News 2015, 93, 35.

Highlighted as “Synfact of the Month” by Erick M. Carreira and Stefan Fischer in Synfacts 2015, 11, 1231.

10. Benke Hong, Houhua Li, Jinbao Wu, Jing Zhang, Xiaoguang Lei*, Total Syntheses of (−)-Huperzine Q, (+)-Lycopladines B and C, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2015, 54, 1011−1015.

• Highlighted by Erick M. Carreira and Simon Krautwald in Synfacts 2015, 11, 112.

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