Hien Nguyen

Hien Nguyen

Carl Johnson/Pfizer Professor of Organic Chemistry


313-577-8822 (fax)


Chem 337/341

Curriculum vitae



Hien Nguyen



Research interest(s)/area of expertise

  • Chemical Biology, Glycobiology, Catalytic Carbohydrate Methods, Transition-Metal Catalysis, Fluorination, Radiofluorination for PET Imaging, Electrochemistry, Cancer, Diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and COVID-19 


Hien M. Nguyen was born in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. Prof. Nguyen came to the US in 1989 and first settled with his family in Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated with honors from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts where he majored in chemistry and conducted research with Professor Marc d'Alarcao. Hien left Boston and moved to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and he subsequently joined the group of the late David Y. Gin. His PhD thesis focused on developing new carbohydrate methodologies for efficient assembly of complex oligosaccharides. As an NIH postdoctoral fellow in the group of Prof. Barry Trost at Stanford University, Prof. Nguyen pursued training in the area of transition-metal catalysis. Prof. Nguyen began his independent career in 2006 and was promoted with tenure at the University of Iowa. In 2018, he relocated to Wayne State University as the Carl Johnson/Pfizer Endowed Chair and Professor of Chemistry.

One of the major research programs in the laboratory of Prof. Nguyen  is to develop well-defined, sulfated polymeric and oligomeric carbohydrate molecules for studying cancer metastasis, tumor cell invasion, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and SARS-CoV-2 infection. The second research program involves the development of a series of catalytic stereoselective glycosylation methodologies, allowing for the efficient assembly of complex carbohydrate molecules which can be explored as potential therapeutics against various cancers, bacterial infections, tuberculosis, and anticoagulation. In particular, we exploit the nature of cationic nickel and phenanthroline as the catalysts to selectively promote the formation of high purity 1,2-cis glycosides in high yields and with excellent selectivity. The third research program focuses on the development of novel methodologies for the enantioselective construction of C-F, C-O, and C-N containing compounds that possess significant bioactivity utilizing transition-metal-catalyzed processes. The methods will be applied to the synthesis of bioactive molecules, seting the stage for subsequent biological studies as well as the design and development of related structural analogs. Recently, we have developed a rapid and mild conditions for fluorine-18 incorporation into small organic molecules for potential use as PET radiotracers.


  • B.S. Tufts University, 1996
  • Ph.D. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2003
  • NIH Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University, 2003 - 2006

Selected publications

  •  Zhu, S.; Li, J.; Loka, R. S.; Vlodavsky, I.; Zhang, K.; Nguyen, H. M. “Modulating Heparanase Activity: Tuning Sulfation Pattern and Glycosidic Linkage of Oligosaccharides” J. Med. Chem. 2020, 63, 4227-4255.
  • Sorlin, A. M.; Fuad, U. O.; English, C. K.; Nguyen, H. M. "Advances in Nucleophilic Allylic Fluorination." ACS Catal. 202010, 11980-12010.
  • Loka, R. S.; Sletten, E. T.; Barash, U.; Vlodavsky, I.; Nguyen, H. M. “Specific Inhibition of Heparanase by Glycopolymer with Well-Defined Sulfation Pattern Prevents Breast Cancer Metastasis in Mice.” ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2019, 11, 244-254.
  • Yu, F.; Li, J.; DeMent, P. M.; Tu, Y.-J.; Schlegel, H. B.; Nguyen, H. M. “Phenanthroline-Catalyzed Stereoselective Glycosylations.” Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2019, 58, 6957-6961
  • Sletten, E. T.; Tu, Y.-T.; Schlegel, H. B.;* Nguyen, H. M.* “Are Brønsted Acids the True Promoter of Metal Triflate Catalyzed Glycosylations? A Mechanistic Probe into 1,2-cis-Aminoglycoside Formation by Nickel Triflate.” ACS. Catalysis 2019, 9, 2110-2123.
  • Zhu, S.; Samala, G.; Sletten, E. T.; Stockdill, J. L.; Nguyen, H. M. “Facile Triflic Acid-Catalyzed a-1,2-cis-Thiol Glycosylations: Scope and Application to the Synthesis of S-Linked Oligosaccharides, Glycolipids, Sublancin Glycopeptides, and TN/TF Antigens.” Chem. Sci. 2019, 10, 10475-10480.
  • Sorlin, A. M.; Mixdorf, J. C.; Rotella, M.; Martin, R.; Gutierrez, O.; Nguyen, H. M. “The Role of Trichloroacetimidate to Enable Irididium-Catalyzed Regio- and Enantioselective Allylic Fluorination.” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 143, 14843-14882.
  • Mixdorf, J. C; Sorlin, A. M.; Dick, D.; Nguyen, H. M. “Iridium-Catalyzed Radiosynthesis of Branched Allylic [18F]Fluorides.” Org. Lett. 2019, 21, 60-64.
  • Mixdorf, J. M.; Sorlin, A. M.; Nguyen, H. M. "Asymmetric Synthesis of Allylic Fluorides via Fluorination of Racemic Allylic Trichloroacetimidates Catalyzed by a Chiral Diene-Iridium Complex." ACS Catal. 2018, 8, 790-801.
  • Loka, R. S.; Yu, F.; Sletten, E. T.; Nguyen, H. M. "Design, Synthesis, and Evaluation of Heparan Sulfate Mimicking Glycopolymers for Inhibiting Heparanase Activity." Chem. Commun. 2017, 53, 9163-9166.
  • Zhang, Q.; Stockdale, D. P.; Mixdorf, J. C.; Topczewski, J. J.; Nguyen, H. M. "Iridium-Catalyzed Enantioselective Fluorination of Racemic. Secondary Trichloroacetimidates." J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2015, 137, 11912-11915.
  • Yu, F.; McConnell, M. S.; Nguyen, H. M. "Scalable Synthesis of Fmoc-Protected GalNAc-Threonine Amino Acid and TN Antigen via Nickel Catalysis." Org. Lett. 2015, 17, 2018-2021.
  • Zhang, Q.; Nguyen, H. M. "Rhodium-Catalyzed Regioselective Ring Opening of Vinyl Epoxides with Et3N·3HF: Formation of Allylic Fluorohydrins." Chem. Sci. 2014, 5, 291-296.
  • McConnell, M. S.; Yu, F.; Nguyen, H. M. "Nickel-Catalyzed alpha-Glycosylation of C(1)-Hydroxyl Group of Inositol Acceptors: A Formal Synthesis of Mycothiol." Chem. Commun. 2013, 49, 4313-4315.
  • Topczewski, J. J.; Tewson, T. J.; Nguyen, H. M. "Iridium-Catalyzed Allylic Fluorination of Trichloroacetimidates." J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2011, 133, 19318-19321.
  • Mensah, E. A.; Yu, F.; Nguyen, H. M. "Nickel-Catalyzed Stereoselective Glycosylation with C(2)-N-Substituted Benzylidene Glycosyl Trichloroacetimidates for the Formation of 1,2-cis-2-Amino Glycosides. Applications to the Synthesis of Heparin Oligosaccharides, GPI Anchor Pseudodisaccharides, and alpha-GalNAc." J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2010, 132, 14288-14302.


Currently teaching

  • CHM 4850 Frontiers in Chemistry, 1 credit hour, W2020CHM 5998 Honors Thesis Research in Chemistry, 2-4 credit hours, W2020CHM 5999 Research in Chemistry, 2-4 credit hours, W2020CHM 7220 Organic Reactions & Sythesis, 3 credit hours, W2020CHM 8850 Frontiers in Chemistry, 1 credit hour, W2020

Courses taught

CHM 4850 Frontiers in Chemistry, 1 credit hour, W2019
CHM 7220 Organic Reactions & Sythesis, 3 credit hours, W2019
CHM 8850 Frontiers in Chemistry, 1 credit hour, W2019