Zeolites for the synthesis of drugs and chiral chemicals

CSIC scientists have developed a new chiral zeolitic material for the asymmetric synthesis of chiral products. The scientists point out that its particular structure allows the processing of large molecules. Pharmaceutical and fine chemical companies interested in licensing the patent for the development of synthesis processes are sought.

Chirality at the molecular level is what our left and right hands are at the macro-physical level: they are symmetrical but not equal or superimposable. And very often, the left and right molecules do not have the same effects on the organism.

Chirality at the molecular level is what our left and right hands are at the macro-physical level: they are symmetrical but not equal or superimposable, because one is the mirror image of the other. In the same way, some molecules have two non-superimposable enantiomers: a left-handed version and a right-handed version.

The interesting thing is that in many cases, the left and right molecules do not have the same effects on the organism. Sometimes one of the forms can be harmless or, on the contrary and in the worst cases, very harmful. This was sadly discovered with thalidomide in the 1960s, a drug taken by many pregnant women to relieve nausea, which resulted in thousands of newborn congenital anomalies.

Hence the great interest of the pharmaceutical industry in obtaining drugs in their enantiomerically pure form, i.e. containing only the active enantiomer.

A common method to achieve this is homogeneous catalysts, compounds that allow the enantiomer of interest to be selectively synthesised. However, a feature of this method (which can sometimes be a drawback) is that to separate and recover the catalyst from the final synthesised product requires an additional step which is difficult and expensive. Therefore, not always is possible the recovery of the catalyst.

Another method is heterogeneous catalysts, which can be easily separated from the synthesised product. This is the case of the new development of a CSIC team. The scientists have obtained a zeolitic microporous structure that combines three fundamental characteristics: a very high porosity, which allows large molecules to be processed; a chiral structure that allows chiral products to be prepared selectively towards the desired enantiomer; and a chiral structure that allows chiral products to be prepared selectively
towards the desired enantiomer, and active centres that allow catalytic processes to take place.

It allows obtaining large molecules

The material has a remarkable ability to discriminate between enantiomers of chiral compounds never before observed in zeolites. Scientists point out that its particular structure allows the processing of large molecules. In addition, its characteristics allow the introduction of various catalytic functionalities for different chemical reactions.

The preparation procedure is very simple, requires moderate temperatures and uses easily accessible precursors. Moreover, it allows the material to be obtained in its two enantiomeric forms, which makes possible the synthesis of both enantiomers of the desired chiral product. As it is a solid catalyst, it can be easily recovered and reused, which significantly increases the sustainability of the catalytic process.

Tests have shown that this material is capable of producing large chiral compounds with remarkable enantio-selectivity. Pharmaceutical and fine chemical companies interested in licensing the patent for the development of chiral molecule synthesis processes are sought.

 

Contact:

Sara Junco
Deputy Vice-Presidency for
Knowledge Transfer -
CSIC
Tel.: 915854633
e-mail:

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M. Fernández Via