Cobalt-Catalyzed Asymmetric Hydrogenation of Enamides Enabled by Single-Electron Reduction

Paul Chirik uses single-electron reduction for the cobalt-catalyzed hydrogenation of enamides.

Many drug molecules, much like a pair of hands, have defined stereochemistry, meaning a specific orientation of the substituents in space. Chemists are challenged to discover methods to synthesize only one enantiomer of drug molecules rather than synthesize both and then separate. Metal catalysts, historically based on precious metals like rhodium, have been tasked with solving this challenge. Recently, the group of Professor Paul J. Chirik at Princeton University (USA) in collaboration with scientists from the MSD Research Laboratories (USA) demonstrated that a more Earth-abundant metal – cobalt – can be used to synthesize the epilepsy medication Keppra (levetiracetam) as just one enantiomeric form.


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