Jin-Quan Yu
Jin-Quan Yu, PhD, Bristol Myers Squibb Endowed Chair in Chemistry and Frank and Bertha Hupp Professor of Chemistry. Credit: Scripps Research

Jin-Quan Yu, PhD, the Bristol Myers Squibb Endowed Chair in Chemistry and the Frank and Bertha Hupp Professor in Chemistry at Scripps Research, received the 2024 Chemical Pioneer Award from the American Institute of Chemists (AIC). The honor was given for his groundbreaking research in chemistry, particularly his pioneering work in C-H activation—a technique for building molecules that has transformed everything from pharmaceutical development to materials science.

Since 1996, the AIC has granted the Chemical Pioneer Award to individuals whose outstanding contributions have helped to advance the field of chemical science. Yu presented a lecture at the award ceremony on May 9, 2024, titled, “Palladium (II)-Catalyzed C-H Activation with Bifunctional Ligands: From Curiosity to Industrialization.”

Yu’s lab has published more than 300 studies and has collaborated with academic and industry leaders across the globe to develop and expand his C-H activation methods, which are now implemented in a wide range of drug discovery programs, spanning from acute pain killers to cancer therapeutics. In 2023, Yu published a study in Nature demonstrating that he extended this toolkit to the broad class of chemicals known as alcohols. And earlier this year, he published a study in Nature Synthesis describing how to use inexpensive starting chemicals to make saturated heterocycles—compounds that are found in most FDA-approved drugs.

Yu earned his doctorate in chemistry from University of Cambridge (UK) in 1999 and joined Scripps Research’s faculty in 2007 after an appointment at Brandeis University and a Royal Society fellowship at the University of Cambridge. In 2016, he received a MacArthur Fellowship, also known as a “genius grant,” and has been elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences, among many other honors and awards.