Robert Eckles Swain Professor in Chemistry Robert Waymouth investigates new catalytic strategies to create useful new molecules, including bioactive polymers, synthetic fuels, and sustainable plastics. In one such breakthrough, Professor Waymouth and Professor Wender developed a new class of gene delivery agents.
Born in 1960 in Warner Robins, Georgia, Robert Waymouth studied chemistry and mathematics at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia (B.S. and B.A., respectively, both summa cum laude, 1982). He developed an interest in synthetic and mechanistic organometallic chemistry during his doctoral studies in chemistry at the California Institute of Technology under Professor R.H. Grubbs (Ph.D., 1987). His postdoctoral research with Professor Piero Pino at the Institut fur Polymere, ETH Zurich, Switzerland, focused on catalytic hydrogenation with chiral metallocene catalysts. He joined the Stanford University faculty as assistant professor in 1988, becoming full professor in 1997 and in 2000 the Robert Eckles Swain Professor of Chemistry.
Today, the Waymouth Group applies mechanistic principles to develop new concepts in catalysis, with particular focus on the development of organometallic and organic catalysts for the synthesis of complex macromolecular architectures. In organometallic catalysis, the group devised a highly selective alcohol oxidation catalyst that selectively oxidizes unprotected polyols and carbohydrates to alpha-hyroxyketones. In collaboration with Dr. James Hedrick of IBM, we have developed a platform of highly active organic catalysts and continuous flow reactors that provide access to polymer architectures that are difficult to access by conventional approaches.
The Waymouth group has devised selective organocatalytic strategies for the synthesis of functional degradable polymers and oligomers that function as "molecular transporters" to deliver genes, drugs and probes into cells and live animals. These advances led to the joint discovery with the Wender group of a general, safe, and remarkably effective concept for RNA delivery based on a new class of synthetic cationic materials, Charge-Altering Releasable Transporters (CARTs). This technology has been shown to be effective for mRNA based cancer vaccines.