Prof. Francesco M. E. Sannicolò


Prof Francesco Sannicolò is one of the most distingued Italian Scientist in the fields of Stereoselective Catalysis , Heterocyclic Chemistry and Stereochemistry. He is particularly renowned for the use of the inherent chirality strategy, (i.e. the coincidence of the stereogenic element responsible for chirality and functional group characterizing the specific function of a compound or a material) in the discovery of new enantioselective chelating ligands of transition metals, inherent chiral Ionic Organic salts, and electroconductive polymeric structures based on inherent chiral heterocycles.
All these new inherent chiral ligands, nanostructures and nanomaterials, discovered and synthesised by Professo Sannicolò, were extensively applied for innovative catalysis, synthetic methodologies and fine-chemical processes and for the synthesis of chiral drugs at industrial scale level. Thus, the inherent chirality concept has turned out to afford molecular materials endowed with powerful chirality manifestations plus an unprecedented pool of other outstanding properties.
For his impressively innovative chemistry, for his brilliant academic and scientific carreer, for the several awards and acknowledgments received from national and international scientific community and for his intense and appreciated teaching passion we are honoured to assign to Professor Francesco Sannicolò the 2017 Giulio Natta Prize
Research summary
Prof Sannicolò have discovered and used a new class of chiral diphosphanes with a biheteroaromatic atropisomeric backbone and chiral diphospholane ligands with thiophene and pyrrole scaffold as chelating ligands of transition metals . Professor Sannicolò focussed his research on the stereochemical properties of these new chiral ligands where different electronic properties of five membered aromatic heterocycles, some of them electron excessive (pyrrole, indole, thiophene), some medium-rich (thianaphthene, furan, cumarone), while others very electron poor (imidazole, benzimidazole, pyrazole), are used to modulate the electronic availability of a phosphorous atom directly connected to them. These new classes of enantioselective ligands have been applied worldwide in laboratory and industrial scale and are currently extensively used in the synthesis of chiral drugs at industrial scale level.
Furthermore Prof Sannicolò explored the inherent chirality concept by design and applications of atropisomeric N,N’-dialkyl-3,3’-dipyridinium and 1,1’-bibenzimidazolium salts as Inherently Chiral Ionic Organic salts. These salts, when added as additives to achiral ionic liquids in infinitesimal amounts, are able to transmit their chirality properties to the whole medium, affording impressive enantioselection ability. These inherently chiral scaffolds can be employed, even without salification, as chirality inductors in stereoselective processes, either dissolved in achiral commercial ionic liquid media or, together with a supporting electrolyte, in traditional solvents.
A further application of the inherent chirality concept was the design new materials and nanostructures obtained by polymerization of inherently chiral thiophene monomers. Chemical or electrochemical oligomerization of these monomers produces fully conjugated macrocyclic D2 and D3 symmetric dimers and trimers respectively, characterized by impressive chiroptical and enantioselection properties when used as chiral films to coat achiral electrodes.


1941 Born in Milan.
1965 Degree in Industrial Chemistry, University of Milan.
1966-1971 Post-doctoral research: Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (2 years) and Public Education Ministry fellowships (2 years); University of Milan; supervisor prof. Raffaello Fusco.
1972-1983 Assistant Professor, University of Milan, Industrial Chemistry Institute.
1983-1985 Associated Professor of Advanced Organic Chemistry, University of Milan.
1986 Full Professor of Applied Organic Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, University of Milan.
1986 Full Professor of Advanced Organic Chemistry and Fundamental Organic Chemistry, University of Milan. Temporary professor of Organic Chemistry (Second Course) for the degree in Chemistry at the University of Insubria, Como (2000-2002).
Present in the scientific boards and organizing committees of National and International Congresses and Director of national and international Schools, in particular the Specialization School in Chemical Synthesis (1996-2000) and the “Attilio Corbella” Summer School of Organic Chemistry (2001-2004) of the University of Milan and of the International School of Organometallic Chemistry (2009-2011) of the University of Camerino.
Member of the Advisory Board of the Organometallic Chemistry Interdiivisional Group of the Italian Chemical Society (2005-2007) and President of the Group (2008-2010). Member of the Advisory Board of the Organic Chemistry Division of the Italian Chemical Society (2006-2014).
Invited professor and lecturer in several foreign universities.
More than 170 scientific publications on peer-reviewed high IF international journals and about 30 patents, most of which extended to Europe and world level.
Award of the Science Faculty of the University of Milan for scientific productivity.
Award of the Organic Chemistry Division of the Italian Chemical Society for “Organic Chemistry in its synthetic aspects (Methods and Products)” (2003).
Raffaele Piria gold medal of the Italian Chemical Society (2014) “assigned every four years to a scientist who honoured Italian Organic Chemistry representing also a continuity in its most renowned traditions”. (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2014, 53, 1–3; La Chimica e l’Industria, Web, December 2014).
Founder (1966), General Manager and past Technical Director of Laboratori Alchemia S.r.L. (Milan), a small highly qualified company specialized in the production of synthetically complex APIs according to GMP procedures, authorized by AIFA and other foreign pharmaceutical regulatory agencies.