Li DENG, Ph.D.

Laboratory of Catalysis and Organic Synthesis




Li DENG, Ph.D.

Laboratory of Catalysis and Organic Synthesis




"Innovation comes from not only intelligence, but also dreams and passion.Westlake University is where those who seek to turn dreams into reality freely pursue their passion and exercise their intelligence."


Professor Deng’s research program focuses on the discovery of powerful and practical chiral organic catalysts promoting novel and highly selective reactions. His group pioneered the development and application of general base catalysis as general means for the development of new reactions. Many of these reactions have already found wide applications in target- and diversity-oriented synthesis. The reactions have also been developed into viable tools for industrial manufacturing of chiral compounds.


Professor Deng received his B.S. degree from Tsinghua University, China (1987), M.S. degree from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (1990) and Ph.D. degree from Harvard University (1994). After an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard University (1995-1998), he joined Brandeis University as Assistant Professor of Chemistry in 1998. He became Associate Professor in 2003, Professor and was named the Orrie Friedman Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in 2005. He served as the Chair of the Chemistry Department at Brandies University from 2011 to 2014.


Professor Deng has published a serial of high impact papers in journals such as Nature, J. Am. Chem. Soc., and Angewandte Chemie. He serves as a reviewer for many chemistry journals and granting agencies from all continents. Professor Deng’s outstanding accomplishments have been duly recognized by several prestigious honors and awards including the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow (2003), JSPS (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) Fellow (2007), and the Chan Memorial Award in Organic Chemistry (2008).


Professor Deng is currently the XU Yiming Endowed Chair Professor of Chemistry and Executive Dean for the School of Science, and his goal is to establish a world-class research center in catalysis and synthetic chemistry at the Westlake University.


Representative Publications

1. Chen, Y.; Tian, S.-K.; Deng, L.* "A Highly Enantioselective Catalytic Desymmetrization of Cyclic Anhydrides with Modified Cinchona Alkaloids," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2000/09, 122, 9542-9543.

2. Tian, S.-K.; Deng, L.* "A Highly Enantioselective Chiral Lewis Base-Catalyzed Asymmetric Cyanation of Ketones," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2001/06, 123, 6195-6196.

3. McDaid, P.; Chen, Y.; Deng, L.* “A Highly Enantioselective and General Conjugate Addition of Thiols to Cyclic Enones with an Organic Catalyst,” Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2002/01, 41, 338-340. Angew. Chem. 2002/01, 114, 348-350. (Designated as a “Hot Paper”).

4. Tian, S.-K.; Hong, R.; Deng, L.* “Catalytic Asymmetric Cyanosilylation of Ketones with Chiral Lewis Base,” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2003/07, 125, 9900-9901.

5. Tian, S.-K.; Chen, Y.; Hang, Jianfeng.; Tang, Liang.; McDaid, P.; Deng, L.* “Asymmetric Organic Catalysis with Modified Cinchona Alkaloids,” Accounts of Chemical Research 2004/05, 37, 621-631 (invited contribution for a special issue of asymmetric organic catalysis).

6. Li, H.; Wang, Y.; Tang, L.; Deng, L.* “Highly Enantioselective Conjugate Addition of Malonate and -Ketoester to Nitroalkenes: Asymmetric C-C Bond Formation via New Bifunctional Organic Catalysts Based on Cinchona Alkaloids,” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2004/07, 126, 9906-9907.

7. Li, H.; Wang, Y.; Tang, L.; Wu, F.; Liu, X.; Guo, C.; Foxman, B.; Deng, L.* “Stereocontrolled Creation of Adjacent Quaternary and Tertiary Stereocenters via a Catalytic, Diastereoselective and Enantioselective Conjugate Addition,” Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2004/12, 44, 105-108 (designated as a “Very Important Paper (VIP)” paper).

8. Li, H.; Song, J.; Liu, X.; Deng, L.* “Catalytic Enantioselective Conjugate Additions with Vinyl Sulfones,” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2005/06, 127, 8948-8949.

9. Li, H.; Wang, B.; Deng, L.* “Enantioselective Nitroaldol Reaction of -Ketoesters Catalyzed by Cinchona Alkaloids,” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2005/12, 128, 732-733.

10. Wang, Y.; Liu, X.; Deng, L.* “Dual-Function Cinchona Alkaloid Catalysis: Catalytic Asymmetric Tandem Conjugate Addition-Protonation for the Direct Creation of Nonadjacent Stereocenters,” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2006/03, 128, 3928‑3930.

11. Wu, F.-H.; Li, H.; Hong, R.; Deng, L.* “Construction of Quaternary Stereocenters via Efficient and Practical Conjugate Additions to α,β Unsaturated Ketones with a Chiral Organic Catalyst,” Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2006/01, 45, 947-950.

12. Song, J.; Wang, Y.; Deng, L.* “The Mannich Reaction of Malonates with Simple Imines Catalyzed by Bifunctional Cinchona Alkaloids: Enantioselective Synthesis of -Amino Acids,” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2006/04, 128, 6048-6049.

13. Wang, B.; Wu, F.; Wang, Y.; Liu, X.; Deng, L.* “Control of Diastereoselectivity in Tandem Asymmetric Reactions Generating Nonadjacent Stereocenters with Bifunctional Catalysis by Cinchona Alkaloids,” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2007/01, 129, 768‑769.

14. Wang, Y.; Li, H.; Wang, Y.-Q.; Liu, Y.; Foxman, B. M.; Deng, L. “Asymmetric Diels-Alder Reactions of 2-Pyrones with Bifunctional Organic Catalysts,” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2007/05, 129, 6364-6365.

15. Lu, X.; Liu, Y.; Sun, B.; Cindric, B.; Deng, L.* “Catalytic Enantioselective Peroxidation of -Unsaturated Ketones,” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2008/06, 130, 8134-8135 (Selected by editors for a “JACS Select collection” focused on organocatalysis).

16. Wu, Y.; Singh, R.; Deng, L.* “Asymmetric Olefin Isomerization via Proton Transfer Catalysis with an Organic Molecule” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2011/07, 133, 12458-12461.

17. Wu Y.; Deng, L.* “Asymmetric Synthesis of Trifluoromethylated Amines via Catalytic Enantioselective Isomerization of Imines” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012/08, 134, 14334–14337.

18. Wu. Y.; Hu, L.; Li, Zhe.; Deng, L.* “Catalytic Asymmetric Umpolung Reactions of Imines” Nature 2015/07, 523, 445-450.

19. Zhou, X.; Wu, Y.; Deng, L.* “Cinchonium Betaines as Efficient Catalysts for Asymmetric Proton Transfer Catalysis: The Development of a Practical Enantioselective Isomerization of Trifluoromethyl Imines” J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2016/08, 138, 12297–12302.

20. Li, Z.; Hu, B.; Wu, Y.; Fei, C.; Deng, L.* “Control of Chemoselectivity in Asymmetric Tandem Reactions: Direct Synthesis of Chiral Amines Bearing Non-adjacent Stereocenters” PNAS, 2018/02, 115, 1730-1735.