Dr Masson explains how organocatalysts – such as the one developed by her group – provide an efficient and environmentally-friendly way to synthesise a range of organic molecules with high stereoselectivity:
"Most life forms are actually made of a multitude of various natural organic molecules interacting together. For decades, synthetic organic chemistry has been the preferred way to produce and invent new drugs to cure diseases, since there is an almost infinite number of ways to attach carbon atoms together and decorate the resulting skeleton.
"The emergence of organocatalysis recognises the fact that beyond those functions, organic molecules can also serve as small machines (called catalysts) to construct other elaborate organic molecules (such as drugs) by assembling smaller ones in a controlled fashion.
"This technique can for example avoid waste and improve yields by forcing fragments to attach correctly to each other to form the right molecule, or replace other catalytic substances exhibiting toxicity such as heavy metals derivatives. Moreover, the many ways in which one can tweak an organocatalyst's structure make it usable to synthesise a wide range of different molecules with different uses."
This article is free to read in our open access, flagship journal Chemical Science: Geraldine Masson et al., Chem. Sci., 2019, Advance Article. DOI: 10.1039/C8SC05581E. You can access our 2019 ChemSci Picks in this article collection. Read more like this