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Raging Hormones – Gram-Scale Synthesis of Prostaglandin PGF2α

“Stereocontrolled organocatalytic synthesis of prostaglandin PGF in seven steps” Coulthard, G.; Erb, W.; Aggarwal, V. K. Nature 2012, online view. DOI: 10.1038/nature11411

In my very un-scientific survey of the green chemistry-branded journals, I see way more new methodologies than I see total syntheses. I hope to single-handedly change this, and show how green a total synthesis can be by writing about the awesome recent synthesis of prostaglandin PGF by Aggarwal and coworkers. First, a few words on the target molecule. Being hormones, prostaglandins such as PGF are involved in tons of biological processes. Interestingly, instead of being synthesized by some important gland and acting in far-off regions of the body as are endocrine hormones, they are autocrine or paracrine hormones and are synthesized “on-site.” The first structural characterizations of prostaglandins came in the 1960s, some 30 years after their initial discovery. Soon after, they became the subject of numerous syntheses, the first of which was achieved by E. J. Corey in 1969. A series of syntheses followed, but even 40 years later, the structurally-related glaucoma drug latanoprost is synthesized in 20 steps using Corey’s 1969 prostaglandin strategy.

That’s right, the prostglandin structural motif is medicinally relevant. So, not only would an improved synthesis be cool from a fundamental science perspective, it might actually be moved into industrial production and have an immediate impact! (more…)

More Stahl Aerobics

“Highly Practical Copper(I)/TEMPO Catalyst System for Chemoselective Aerobic Oxidation of Primary Alcohols” Hoover, J. M.,; Stahl, S. S.  J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2011. ASAP. DOI: 10.1021/ja206230h

To quickly follow up yesterday’s post on aerobic alcohol oxidation, I thought that this new paper from the Stahl lab on the same topic was worth mentioning.  While their continuous flow process for alcohol oxidation was a pretty big improvement over many existing methods, the reagents necessary were not ideal.  Toluene and pyridine are both toxic, and palladium is not extremely abundant, especially compared to 1st row transition metals.  So there was plenty of room for improvement, which is why I was really psyched to see this new catalyst system for primary alcohol oxidation that was published a few days ago. Virtually all of the reaction components have been replaced by greener reagents:  acetonitrile instead of toluene, N-methylimidazole instead of pyridine, and catalytic TEMPO/(bpy)Cu(I) instead of palladium acetate.  Unlike most aerobic alcohol oxidations, an atmosphere of pure oxygen was not necessary – the oxygen present in ambient air was enough for the reaction to run efficiently.  And the reaction is run at room temperature to boot.  It’s hard to imagine that this reaction would be more difficult to scale up using their flow reactor than the Pd-catalyzed version, although you never know I suppose.

There’s loads more in the paper on their catalyst development studies, and on the chemoselectivity of this process for primary alcohols versus secondary ones – definitely worth reading!

The Problem with Oxygen

“Development of safe and scalable continuous-flow methods for palladium-catalyzed aerobic oxidation reactions” Ye, X.; Johnson, M. D.; Diao, T.; Yates, M. S.; Stahl, S. SGreen Chemistry, 2010, 12, 1180-1186.  DOI: 10.1039/c0gc00106f

We’ve had a pair of posts recently about using oxygen as an terminal oxidant in cross-coupling and biomass degradation, and as a green oxidant, it’s pretty hard to beat.  So I was a little surprised to learn that of the many cool aerobic synthetic methods that have been developed in the last decade, very few are used in industry.  The big drawback, especially on large scale, is safety – oxygen is usually the limiting reagent in the combustion reaction, and things can get pretty crazy when you have an oxygen-enriched atmosphere (and much crazier with liquid oxygen – check out this awesome video, and this one that Marty had in his last post).  So while stirring 100 mL of toluene under a balloon of pure oxygen might be fine, doing the same thing with 100 L is problematic.

This setup doesn't scale up very well

Safety aside, these reactions suffer because proper gas-liquid mixing is more difficult to achieve as you scale up.  All of this prompted a collaboration between Eli Lilly and Shannon Stahl‘s lab to develop a scalable continuous-flow method for aerobic alcohol oxidation, which avoids these problems. (more…)

Direct, aerobic arene olefination

“Ligand-Enabled Reactivity and Selectivity in a Synthetically Versatile Aryl C–H Olefination”  Wang, D.-H.; Engle, K. M.; Shi, B.-F. and Yu, J.-QScience 2010327, 315-319. DOI: 10.1126/science.1182512

“Highly Convergent Total Synthesis of (+)-Lithospermic Acid via a Late-Stage Intermolecular C–H Olefination” Wang, D.-H. and Yu, J.-QJ. Am. Chem. Soc. 2011, 133, 5767-5769.  DOI: 10.1021/ja2010225

The Mizoroki-Heck reaction is a widely-used method for cross-coupling of the C-X bond of aryl halides/pseudo-halides with the C-H bond of an olefin – the reaction is so popular that Richard Heck won a share of the 2010 Chemistry Nobel for palladium cross-coupling.   An equivalent of H-X is produced as a byproduct, which is typically neutralized by the addition of stoichiometric base.

A direct coupling of two C-H bonds is an interesting and potentially green alternative to this reaction, since it could simplify the synthesis of the halide coupling partner (shorter synthesis = less waste) and improve the reaction’s atom economy.  In this sort of reaction a directing group is typically needed so the functionalization occurs at only one of the many aryl C-H positions.  Additionally, an oxidant is needed in the catalytic cycle because the metal catalyst, typically Pd(II), is reduced when it mediates the C-C coupling (this sort of mechanism has been proposed).  Typically silver or copper salts are used in superstoichiometric amounts for this purpose.  From a Green Chemistry perspective this is only a marginal improvement over the original Heck reaction – using several equivalents of a transition metal oxidant isn’t a real improvement over generating an equivalent of neutralized acid (like triethylammonium chloride).


Presidential Green Chemistry Awards: Codexis/Merck part 2

Savile, Janey, Mundorff, Moore, Tam, Jarvis, Colbeck, Krebber, Fleitz, Brands, Devine, Huisman, and Hughes.  Biocatalytic Asymmetric Synthesis of Chiral Amines from Ketones Applied to Sitagliptin Manufacture.  Science, 2010, 329, 305-309. DOI: 10.1126/science.1188934.

Here’s a short follow-up on this previous post, which covered a biocatalytic reaction developed by Codexis to make the key intermediate in the synthesis of Merck’s drug montelukast (aka Singulair).  The 2010 Presidential Green Chemistry Awards were just announced, and the award for “Greener Reaction Conditions” went to Merck and Codexis for developing an enantioselective biocatalyst for the synthesis of sitagliptin, Merck’s blockbuster anti-diabetes drug (aka Januvia).  This work is also the subject of a recently-published Science paper from Merck and Codexis.

The paper describes the development of an enzyme-catalyzed replacement for the final reaction in the synthesis of sitagliptin, in which a ketone functionality is converted into an amine. (more…)

Scalable biocatalytic process for asymmetric reduction in the production of montelukast

Liang, Lalonde, Borup, Mitchell, Mundorff, Trinh, Kochrekar, Cherat, Pai.  Development of a Biocatalytic Process as an Alternative to the (−)-DIP-Cl-Mediated Asymmetric Reduction of a Key Intermediate of Montelukast. Org. Process Res. Dev. 2010, 14, 193-198. DOI: 10.1021/op900272d

This article from researchers at Codexis describes the development of a biocatalytic (i.e. enzyme-catalyzed) method for creating the lone stereocenter in the synthesis of montelukast sodium, aka Merck’s asthma drug Singulair. The original Merck process route includes an enantioselective ketone reduction using a boron reagent derived from alpha-pinene called (-)-DIP-Cl. The reaction works well: high yield, high enantioselectivity (although still requiring a recrystallization step to upgrade from ~95% to 99% ee), and (-)-DIP-Cl is made in one step from cheap starting materials. The downside is that at least 1.5 equivalents of (-)-DIP-Cl must be used, and the reagent is moisture sensitive and corrosive. Codexis, being in the enzyme business, decided to find an enzyme that would catalyze this same reaction. (more…)