Speedy synthesis

University of Illinois chemists hope to meet the efficiency challenge in organic chemistry by exploiting a newly developed class of carbon-hydrogen catalyst. Christina White and her colleagues are creating a new chemical toolbox of highly selective and reactive catalysts that are tolerant of other functionality. "By offering fewer steps, fewer functional group manipulations and higher yields, this toolbox will change the way chemists make molecules," White claims. A palladium/sulfoxide catalyst provides the team with a selective method for directly inserting nitrogen functionality into relatively inert C-H bonds without having to manipulate functional groups. The team has reported streamlined syntheses of various compounds, including a peptidase inhibitor drug candidate, a nucleotide-sugar L-galactose, and the chemotherapeutic reagent acosamine. She and her colleagues are currently applying the technology to synthesizing the antibiotic erythromycin A.