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Dr Jonathan Sperry

PhD/BSc(Hons) (Exon.)

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Associate Professor


  • Feb 2017-present. Associate Professor in Organic and Medicinal Chemistry, University of Auckland. 
  • Feb 2014- 2019. RSNZ Rutherford Discovery Fellow
  • Feb 2012- Feb 2017. Senior Lecturer in Organic and Medicinal Chemistry, University of Auckland. 
  • Nov 2009- Feb 2012. Lecturer in Organic and Medicinal Chemistry, University of Auckland
  • Mar 2006- Nov 2009. Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Auckland, New Zealand, (RSNZ Marsden Fund, D.Prof. M. A. Brimble FRS)
  • Oct 2002- Feb 2006. Ph.D Synthetic Organic Chemistry, University of Exeter, UK. Biomimetic Oxidations in Natural Product Synthesis (Prof. C. J. Moody)
  • 1999-2002. BSc (Hons) Biological and Medicinal Chemistry, 1st class. University of Exeter, UK. Final year project: A Diels Alder approach to Vitamin B6 analogues

Research | Current

****Ph.D SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE FOR 2019**** Contact Jon for more details

BSc(Hons) / MSc

Several Honours and MSc projects are available for students starting in semesters 1 and 2. Please contact Jon for further information

Ph.D studies

A number of funding sources are available to support students into their PhD studies. The application processes are conducted through the University of Auckland, however please get in contact with Jon first to discuss the application. If you are an Australian or New Zealand student with a first class honours degree then you should be eligible for a scholarship.

If you are from outside Australasia, possess a stellar academic record and good English skills (TOEFL scores), I will endeavour to organise a scholarship for you.

If your country has a scholarship program then please contact Jon to see if we are able to support an application.


We regularly host interns from all over the world. If you are interested spending some time in the Sperry lab, please contact Jon

Our Research interests can be split into three main areas:

- Organic Synthesis -

C-H functionalization

Study of natural product synthesis as a platform for methods development.

Particular emphasis is placed on compounds that possess unprecedented architecture, biomimetic synthesis and novel reaction development.

- Medicinal chemistry -

We have a strong interest in developing therapeutics for areas of unmet need, for example;

The synthesis and biophysical analysis of isocitrate lyase (ICL) inhibitors for the treatment of latent tuberculosis - in collaboration with Dr Ivan Leung and Dr Ghader Bashiri (University of Auckland)

Natural products (and their analogues) for the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, psychosis, OCD, anxiety, etc.

Novel therapeutics targeting the PSA-NCAM complex - in collaboration with A/P Maurice Curtis (Centre for Brain Research). This work is focused on discovering fundamentally new strategies to treat brain cancers, glioma, glioblastoma etc.

- Sustainable Synthesis / Green Chemistry -

Biorenewable platform chemicals in the synthesis of fine and commodity chemicals, in collaboration with A/P Shinji Kudo (Kyushu University, Japan) and A/P Ning Yan (National University of Singapore)

Electrochemical synthesis

Mechanochemical synthesis and mechanochemical degradation of pollutants

Valorization of lignin to access valuable alkanes for use as bio-based solvents, transportation fuels etc

Green solvents and reagents.



Teaching | Current

  • CHEM 230
  • CHEM 260
  • CHEM 330
  • CHEM 360
  • CHEM 730
  • CHEM 735
  • CHEM 750

Postgraduate supervision


Dr Ashley Lindsay


Se Hun Kim (2016)

Ryan Dixon (2016)

Ardalan Nabi (2016)

Trang Pham (2016)

Kirsty Anderson (2017)

Jessica Liyu (2017)

Maurycy Prystupa (2017)

Shi-Wei Kim (2017)

Annabelle Collins (2018)

Rory Devlin (2018)

Kapish Gobindlal (2018)


Emily Russell

BSc (Hons)

Brodie Bailey

Junyang Xu

Yichen Qiu

Interns/visiting students




RSNZ Rutherford Discovery Fellowship 2014-2019

Thieme Chemistry Journal Award 2014

Deans Commendation 2002

Henry Normon Rydon Award 2001

Deans Commendation 2000


Associate Professor in Organic and Medicinal Chemistry

Rutherford Discovery Fellow


Areas of expertise

Organic and Sustainable Synthesis

Medicinal Chemistry

Heterocyclic Chemistry

Natural Products

Green Chemistry

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Chair: Auckland branch of the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry (NZIC)

Founding member of the Centre for Green Chemical Science (CGCS)

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Homer, J. A., & Sperry, J. (2018). Biomimetic synthesis of the bisindole framework present in sciodole, an alkaloid from Tricholoma sciodes. Organic & biomolecular chemistry, 16 (38), 6882-6885. 10.1039/c8ob02142b
  • Ludvíková L, Štacko P, Sperry, J., & Klán P (2018). Photosensitized Cross-Linking of Tryptophan and Tyrosine Derivatives by Rose Bengal in Aqueous Solutions. The Journal of organic chemistry, 83 (18), 10835-10844. 10.1021/acs.joc.8b01545
  • Lindsay, A. C., Kim, S. H., & Sperry, J. (2018). Non-monoterpenoid azepinoindole alkaloids. Natural product reports10.1039/c8np00047f
  • Homer, J. A., & Sperry, J. (2018). Synthesis of three Tricholoma-derived indoles via an ortho-quinone methide. Arkivoc, 2018 (4), 6-12. 10.24820/ark.5550190.p010.475
  • Bhusal, R., Patel, K., Kwai, B., Bashiri, G., Reynisson, J., Sperry, J., & Leung, I. (2018). Targeting isocitrate lyase for the treatments of tuberculosis. FEBS OPEN BIO. (pp. 1).
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Ivanhoe Leung, Johannes Reynisson
  • Davison, E. K., Hume, P. A., & Sperry, J. (2018). Total Synthesis of an Isatis indigotica-Derived Alkaloid Using a Biomimetic Thio-Diels-Alder Reaction. Organic letters, 20 (12), 3545-3548. 10.1021/acs.orglett.8b01321
  • Kim, S.-W., Ledingham, E. T., Kudo, S., Greatrex, B. W., & Sperry, J. (2018). Bio-Based Chiral Amines via Aza-Michael Additions to (-)-Levoglucosenone Under Aqueous Conditions. European Journal of Organic Chemistry, 2018 (17), 2028-2038. 10.1002/ejoc.201800388
  • Pham, T. T., Chen, X., Yan, N., & Sperry, J. (2018). A novel dihydrodifuropyridine scaffold derived from ketones and the chitin-derived heterocycle 3-acetamido-5-acetylfuran. Monatshefte für Chemie - Chemical Monthly, 149 (4), 857-861. 10.1007/s00706-017-2112-8

Contact details

Primary office location

Level 7, Room 727A
New Zealand