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Prof. Martin Wills

Professor of Organic Chemistry

Image result for martin wills warwick

I work on synthesis and catalysis. In particular, there is a focus on asymmetric catalysis with organometallic complexes and the development of novel synthetic methodology. Please go to my research group website for full details.

M dot Wills at warwick dot ac dot uk

024 765 23260 (Chemistry)

Office C5.04

Professor Martin Wills Research Group

Feel free to email me anytime you have a question

Groups at Warwick


  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Member of the American Chemical Society
  • Member of the Society for Chemical Industry


  • BSc Imperial College 1985
  • DPhil Oxford 1988
  • DSc Warwick 2008
  • Postdoctoral Researcher in Geneva University 1988-1989
  • Lecturer at Bath University 1989-1995
  • Reader at Warwick University 1995-2000
  • Professor at Warwick University 2000-present

Details of ongoing projects can be found on my group website.

I am currently interested in:

  • Synthetic chemistry and asymmetric catalysis
  • Enantioselective ketone reduction using transfer hydrogenation and asymmetric carbon-carbon bond forming reactions using homochiral transition metal catalysts
  • Total and partial synthesis of natural products
  • Development of supported reagents for synthesis.
  • My Research Group uses a wide range of structural and analytical techniques such as infra-red, NMR, mass spectrometry, X-ray diffraction etc..

My teaching is delivered through Moodle. I teach to all years.

Information on my research group can be found on my group website.

Full details of my research group can be found on my group website.

I am happy to consider any further applications from prospective students.

Publications from 2016 to 2020 (go to my group website for the latest additions)

Readily Accessible sp3-Rich Cyclic Hydrazine Frameworks Exploiting Nitrogen Fluxionality, Conor Dean, Sundaram Rajkumar, Stefan Roesner, Nessa Carson, Guy James Clarkson, Martin Wills, Matthew L Jones and Mike Shipman* Chemical Science, 2020, accepted on 23 Dec 2019 and first published on 02 Jan 2020. The lead author is Prof Mike Shipman and the paper describes his group's work on the development of routes to enantiomerically-enriched cyclic hydrazine. abstract coming soon.

A strained alkyne-containing bipyridine reagent; synthesis, reactivity and fluorescence properties, Sam Forshaw, Richard C. Knighton, Jami Reber, Jeremy S. Parker, Nicola P. Chmel and Martin Wills, RSC Advances, 2019, 9, 36154-36161. Open Access from the RSC website.

strained alkyne 2019 RSC advances

(S)-(-)-Fluorenylethylchloroformate (FLEC); preparation using asymmetric transfer hydrogenation and application to the analysis and resolution of amines, Mohammad A. Amin, Michelle A. Camerino, Simon J. Mountford, Xiao Ma, David T. Manallack, David K. Chalmers, Martin Wills,* and Philip E. Thompson*, Tetrahedron 2019, 75, Article Number 130591, accepted 2nd September 2019. Open access until 22nd November using this link:

45 mg of catalyst generates, after recrystallisation, 3.80g of product in >97% ee (72% yield):abstract of MW PT Tetrahedron 2019

Asymmetric Ruthenium Tricarbonyl Cyclopentadienone Complexes; Synthesis and Application to Asymmetric Hydrogenation of Ketones Alessandro Del Grosso, Guy J. Clarkson and Martin Wills Inorganica Chimica Acta, 2019, 496, article 119043, published online 31/7/2019. Open access from the Elsevier website.

image of apepr abstract

151) Probing the effects of heterocyclic functionality in [(benzene)Ru(TsDPENR)Cl] catalysts for Asymmetric Transfer Hydrogenation. Jonathan Barrios-Rivera,† Yingjian Xu*‡ and Martin Wills * Org. Lett. 2019, 21, 7223-7227. ASAP accepted 26/7/2019. Results from a joint project with GoldenKeys High-tech Materials Co., Ltd., China.

Featured on front cover.

graphic for 2019 OL

Synthesis and Reactivity of a Bis-Strained Alkyne Derived from 1,1′-Biphenyl-2,2′,6,6′-tetrol
Richard C. Knighton, Krishna Sharma, Naomi S. Robertson, David R. Spring and Martin Wills, ACS Omega, 2019, 4, 2160–2167. A “double strained alkyne” was been prepared and evaluated in strain-promoted azide-alkyne cycloaddition reactions with azides. Accepted January 10th 2019. Open access from the ACS website. PMCID# PMC6648819 through ACS' Certified Deposit program.


'Synthesis and cycloaddition reactions of strained alkynes derived from 2,2′-dihydroxy-1,1′-biaryls',
Anish Mistry, Richard C. Knighton, Sam Forshaw, Zakaria Dualeh, Jeremy S. Parker and Martin Wills, Org. Biomol. Chem. 2018, 16, 8965 - 8975. DOI: 10.1039/C8OB01768A. Published online 12/11/2018. Open access from the RSC website.

A series of strained alkynes, based on the 2,2′-dihydroxy-1,1′-biaryl structure, were prepared in a short sequence from readily-available starting materials.


Asymmetric transfer hydrogenation of acetophenone derivatives using 2-benzyl-tethered ruthenium(II)/TsDPEN complexes bearing h6-(p-OR)(R=H,iPr,Bn,Ph) ligands. Richard C. Knighton, Vijyesh K. Vyas, Luke H. Mailey, Bhalchandra M. Bhanage, Martin Wills, J. Organomet. Chem. 2018, 875, 72-79. Click here for access to the article before 6th November 2018! Several new tethered catalysts are formed via arene-exchange and demonstrate excellent activity in ketone reduction.


Unravelling the Photoprotection Properties of Mycosporine Amino Acid Motifs
Jack M. Woolley, Michael Staniforth, Michael D. Horbury, Gareth W. Richings, Martin Wills , and Vasilios G. Stavros*, J. Phys. Chem. Lett., 2018, 9, 3043–3048. Open access via the ACS website. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpclett.8b00921. Publication Date (Web): May 11, 2018.


'Transfer Hydrogenation and Antiproliferative Activity of Tethered Half-Sandwich Organoruthenium Catalysts' Feng Chen, Isolda Romero-Canelón, Joan J. Soldevila-Barreda, Ji-Inn Song, James P. C. Coverdale, Guy J. Clarkson, Jana Kasparkova , Abraha Habtemariam, Martin Wills, Viktor Brabec and Peter J. Sadler, Organometallics 2018, 37,1555–1566. Open access via the ACS website. Publication Date (Web): April 23, 2018 (Article) DOI: 10.1021/acs.organomet.8b00132.


'Exploitation of differential electronic densities for the stereoselective reduction of ketones bearing a masked amino surrogate' Renta Jonathan Chew* and Martin Wills* J. Catal. 2018, 361, 40-44.


'Ruthenium-Catalyzed Asymmetric Reduction of Isoxazolium Salts: Access to Optically Active Δ4-Isoxazolines' Renta Jonathan Chew* and Martin Wills* J. Org. Chem. 2018, 83, 2980–2985. Article ASAPDOI: 10.1021/acs.joc.7b03229. Publication Date (Web): February 6, 2018.


An alternative route to tethered Ru(II) transfer hydrogenation catalysts, Roy Hodgkinson, Václav Jurčík, Hans Nedden, Andrew Blackaby, Martin Wills, Tetrahedron Lett. 2018, 59, 930-933. Accepted 23 January 2018, Available online 1 February 2018. Link to shared article valid until 30/3/18.


Combining Electronic and Steric Effects To Generate Hindered Propargylic Alcohols in High Enantiomeric Excess’, Vijyesh K. Vyas, Richard C. Knighton, Bhalchandra M. Bhanage, and Martin Wills, Org. Lett. 2018, 20, 975–978. Publication Date (Web): January 31, 2018. DOI: 10.1021/acs.orglett.7b03884. A remarkable selectivity pattern for reduction of challenging substrates. Open access from the ACS website:


Asymmetric Transfer Hydrogenation by Synthetic Catalysts in Cancer Cells, James P. C. Coverdale, Isolda Romero-Canelón, Carlos Sanchez-Cano, Guy J. Clarkson, Abraha Habtemariam, Martin Wills & Peter J. Sadler, Nature Chemistry 2018, 10, 347–354, published online 8th January 2018.

abstract : '...Here we use highly stable chiral half-sandwich organometallic Os(II) arene sulfonyl diamine complexes, [Os(arene)(TsDPEN)] (TsDPEN, N-(p-toluenesulfonyl)-1,2-diphenylethylenediamine), to achieve a highly enantioselective reduction of pyruvate, a key intermediate in metabolic pathways. Reduction is shown both in aqueous model systems and in human cancer cells, with non-toxic concentrations of sodium formate used as a hydride source...'


Synthesis and Applications to Catalysis of Novel Cyclopentadienone Iron Tricarbonyl Complexes,

Alessandro Del Grosso, Alexander E. Chamberlain, Guy J. Clarkson and Martin Wills*, Dalton Trans. 2018, 47, 1451-1470. Published online (advance article) 5th January 2018, DOI 10.1039/C7DT03250A. Open access from the RSC website.


Synthesis of Enantiomerically Pure and Racemic Benzyl-Tethered Ru(II)/TsDPEN Complexes by Direct Arene Substitution: Further Complexes and Applications

Rina Soni, Katherine E. Jolley, Silvia Gosiewska, Guy J. Clarkson, Zhijia Fang, Thomas H. Hall, Ben N. Treloar, Richard C. Knighton, and Martin Wills, Organometallics 2018, 37, 48–64. Publication Date (Web): December 20, 2017 (Article)

DOI: 10.1021/acs.organomet.7b00731


Use of (Cyclopentadienone)iron Tricarbonyl Complexes for C–N Bond Formation Reactions between Amines and Alcohols, Thomas J. Brown, Madeleine Cumbes, Louis J. Diorazio, Guy J. Clarkson and Martin Wills, J. Org. Chem. 2017, 82, 10489–10503. Publication Date (Web): September 18, 2017, 10.1021/acs.joc.7b01990. Open access from ACS website.


Strained alkynes derived from 2,2′-dihydroxy-1,1′-biaryls; synthesis and copper-free cycloaddition with azides

Alessandro Del Grosso, Lavrentis-Dimitrios Galanopoulos, Cookson K. C. Chiu, Guy J. Clarkson, Peter B. O′ Connor and Martin Wills* Org. Biomol.Chem. 2017, 15, 4517 - 4521: Open access from RSC website:!divAbstract


Asymmetric Transfer Hydrogenation of 1,3-Alkoxy/Aryloxy Propanones Using Tethered Arene/Ru(II)/TsDPEN Complexes, Sam Forshaw, Alexander J. Matthews, Thomas J. Brown, Louis J. Diorazio, Luke Williams and Martin Wills*. Org. Lett, 2017, 19, 2789-2792. (collaboration with AstraZeneca). Open access from ACS website.

DOI: 10.1021/acs.orglett.7b00756, Publication Date (Web): May 16, 2017 pp 2789–2792.


'The contrasting catalytic efficiency and cancer cell antiproliferative activity of stereoselective organoruthenium transfer hydrogenation catalysts' Ying Fu, Carlos Sanchez-Cano, Rina Soni, Isolda Romero-Canelon, Jessica M. Hearn, Zhe Liu, Martin Wills and Peter J. Sadler, Dalton Trans., 2016, 45, 8367-8378. Advance Article DOI: 10.1039/C6DT01242F, Paper First published online : 25 Apr 2016.

The following complexes were evaluate for anticancer activity and the N-Me derivatives showed excellent activity:

dalton 2016 with PJS abstract

Iron cyclopentadienone complexes derived from C2-symmetric bis-propargylic alcohols; preparation and applications to catalysis, Roy C Hodgkinson, Alessandro Del Grosso, Guy J Clarkson and M Wills, Dalton Trans., 2016, 45, 3992 - 4005.
DOI: 10.1039/C5DT04610F

Complexes below were applied to asymmetric transfer hydrogenation and pressure hydrogenation of ketones:


Earlier Publications