In memoriam: Dr. Rodrigo Andrade

Professor Rodrigo (Rod) B. Andrade of the Department of Chemistry passed away May 24. Rod was a consummate scholar and teacher to graduate and undergraduate students since he arrived at Temple University in 2006 as an assistant professor. Due to his profound contributions to the area of organic synthesis methods, he earned tenure and promotion to the rank of associate professor in 2012, and to full professor in 2019. His dedication to his scholarship and teaching in organic chemistry was always on display to those who were fortunate enough to know and interact with him.
Rod earned his BA in biophysics with honors from the Johns Hopkins University in 1996. Under the mentorship of Peter Seeberger, he earned his PhD in organic chemistry from MIT in 2001. From 2001 to 2003, Rod explored industry and was the chief scientific officer at Genigma Corp. and then was senior scientist at NeoGenesis Pharmaceuticals (now Merck) developing lead compounds for drug discovery. Starting in 2003, Rod made his pivot back to the academic world as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Stephen Martin at the University of Texas, Austin until 2006. After arriving at Temple as a junior faculty member, Rod quickly proved to be a rising star.

The central theme of Rod’s research at Temple University was the asymmetric synthesis of architecturally complex natural products, focusing on the total synthesis of two families of complex and biologically active natural products, macrolide antibiotics and indole alkaloids.  He developed innovative new chemistry for their efficient synthesis, and then, with his coworkers, implemented that chemistry to prepare parent compounds and more efficacious analogs for biological evaluation.

To address the critical problems of antibiotic resistance to erythromycin and some of its analogues, he designed and, with the help of his coworkers, constructed an elegant series of compounds based on erythromycin-derived telithromycin that were missing one, two, or three methyl groups. These new compounds proved to be active against several wild type and related resistant bacterial strains.

Although it has long been appreciated that the construction of indole alkaloids, with multiple contiguous rings and quaternary stereocenters, was challenging, Rod’s insights allowed him to formulate plans to overcome the difficulties. He and his coworkers successfully implemented the planned innovative stereoselective methods to prepare the tetracyclic framework characteristic of the alkaloids of the majority of the members of the Strychnos family, to prepare specific compounds in that family including strychnine, and to develop concise routes to related Aspidosperma bases.

Perhaps Rod’s most original contribution is his group’s first use of chiral N-sulfinyl metallodienamines as ambient nucleophiles in complex molecule synthesis. Key steps in the first synthesis of (-)-albocycline were hydroxylation at the a-position and a vinylogous aldol reaction at the g-position of the N-sulfinyl metallodienamine.

Rod carried the same need for care and thoroughness in his scholarship to the classroom. He was a well-loved instructor at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Rod also had a lifelong commitment to diversity in science and was the co-director of our Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) research training program (funded by the NIH).

Rod was a beloved husband and proud father of two teenage daughters. He was a cherished son, brother and friend.

Rod Andrade’s caring spirit and intellect will live on through the students and colleagues he influenced on his career journey. His clear insights and elegant work stand as guides to serve future generations of chemists.

A fund to support an endowed annual lecture in his name has been established to honor his memory.  To support the Professor Rodrigo Andrade Memorial Endowed Lecture, click here.

July 30, 2021