Scheme: Industry Fellowship
Organisation: University of St Andrews
Dates: Sep 2012-Aug 2014
Summary: This project is in the field of chemistry, and more specifically concerns itself with developing more efficient methods to make key pharmaceutical intermediates using catalysts.
A large number of natural products and medicinal compounds are chiral compounds. Chiral compounds are compounds that can exist as two non-superimposable mirror images (rather like your left and right hands). Each mirror image is called an optical isomer. The majority of natural products exist as a single optical isomer, and all new drugs that show optical isomerism are marketed as a single optical isomer. The other optical isomer is often inactive, or in fact can cause an alternative biological effect . Significant developments have been made in this area, with several Nobel prizes in chemistry being awarded to some of the pioneers in asymmetric synthesis. The challenge for the future of the chemical industry is to find more efficient, environmentally friendly methods for producing organic chemicals. One of the under-developed ways this can be achieved in asymmetric synthesis is to make use of reactions that do not generate any waste products (atom-efficient reactions), and that can use a tiny amount of a catalyst to promote the synthesis of the single isomer products. Indeed, very few of the thousands of academic studies have yet been practiced industrially, since efficiency is too low or the reaction is inherently prohibitively expensive. Developing reactions that make use of economic reagents and are inherently efficient can make a significant dent in the energy use and waste associated with commercial asymmetric synthesis, and create more profitable routes to drugs.
Our research is aimed at developing promising results in several reactions that may be able to fulfil the requirements for efficient production at industrial scale. During the fellowship, improvement in the production and usage of the catalysts and application to new commercial targets are being researched.