Research Fellows Directory
Dr Alison Stuart
University of Leicester
In the same way that people have a right hand and a left hand that are mirror images of each other, it is well known in chemistry that compounds can also exist in two different forms, that are mirror images of each other, giving a right handed compound and a left handed compound. These different forms are called enantiomers and in pharmaceutical products they often cause different biological effects. The best known example for the wrong reasons was the disastrous introduction of Thalidomide in the late 1950’s. Although the right handed enantiomer is effective against morning sickness, the left handed enantiomer is teratogenic and causes birth defects. Nowadays, both enantiomers of a new drug candidate must be synthesised and tested for both desirable and undesirable effects, but only one enantiomer containing the desirable properties becomes commercially available. Since the incorporation of fluorine in pharmaceutical products often enhances their biological activity, approximately 20 % of all new drugs coming on to the market contain fluorine. Normally, when fluorine is introduced into an organic compound both enantiomers are formed. My research is therefore targeted at the demanding challenge of developing new methods for synthesising only one enantiomer of the desired organofluorine compound.
The potential application of my work rests within the fine chemical, pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries. The development of new mild methods for fluorination and/or the enantioselective introduction of fluorine or difluoromethylene groups into organic compounds, could enable the pharmaceutical industry to access new drugs where fluorine can be incorporated into new and different locations on the organic skeleton.