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James Bull

Dr James Bull

Dr James Bull

Research Fellow

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

Single-operation C–H functionalisation: Next generation directing group strategy

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Organisation: Imperial College London

Dates: Jan 2016-Dec 2020

Value: £494,467.05

Summary: Our research focuses on developing efficient methods for the derivatisation of compounds of value in drug discovery. The ability to prepare organic molecules is crucial to address major societal challenges, including the development of new drugs and our ability to understand the basis for disease. To do this efficiently increasingly requires catalysis, whereby a small quantity of a catalyst can transform a large amount of starting materials to desired products. Exciting advances in catalysis have turned carbon-hydrogen bonds (C-H bonds), which are usually considered inert and are prevalent in organic molecules, into viable precursors for the formation of a variety of more valuable carbon-carbon bonds. Such ‘C-H functionalisation’ is at the forefront of catalytic synthetic technology and site-specific functionalisation of C-H bonds at unactivated positions is extremely challenging. The state of the art requires a directing group in the substrate, which means additional steps to install and later remove this group. This fellowship will develop a ‘single-operation’ catalytic C-H arylation and alkylation of unactivated C(sp3)-H bonds i.e. develop a catalytic system to transform C-H bonds of our choice to much more valuable carbon-carbon bonds. This C-H functionalisation will be achieved exploiting only common groups existing in organic molecules and in a single step, to avoid any extra steps to install and remove a directing group. Furthermore, methods will be developed to allow any particular C-H bond in a molecule to be ‘picked off’ and functionalised, providing control of the position of the reaction and the 3-dimensional arrangement. Overall, this work will provide new strategies for increased synthetic efficiency and facilitate late stage C-H functionalisation applications for the preparation of important molecules.

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