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6 for the price of 1!

Posted on 13 September 2016

York team publish a new method for the formation of 6 medicinally important molecules from a single precursor.

Reaction scheme of 6 natural products from one precursor

To discover new pharmaceutical drugs and agrochemicals, industrial discovery laboratories rely on the design and preparation of new compounds for biological screening.  Traditional procedures for the preparation of novel candidates involve a number of experimental procedures carried out one after another, with different sequences being followed for each product type. In a new approach, York chemists have developed a process in which a given starting material can be controllably converted in one of six different product types by the judicious choice of catalyst and reaction conditions. Rhodium, palladium and copper catalysts were employed as well as processes catalysed by silica gel. The essence of work is in illustrated in the art work; much as a single light source can be split into an array of colours with different visible properties, for example in a rainbow, the York team has been able to apply this concept chemically, to generate an array of products with diverse chemical properties from a single precursor.

The senior researchers, Dr Will Unsworth, Professor Richard Taylor and Professor Peter O'Brien commented: "We are delighted with this new approach.  Some reported methods allow the selective formation of two distinct products,and there are rare reports of procedures to deliver three or more products.  But to be able to prepare six distinct product types in good yields simply by changing the catalyst and reaction conditions is remarkable.  The PhD student, Michael James, who is a former York undergraduate and carried out this study as part of his PhD programme, deserves enormous credit for his ideas and his tenacity in bringing them to fruition."

This research is published in Angewante Chemie International Edition.

For more details see the University news article at