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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N031792/1
Title: Catalytic C-H Activation of Aliphatic Amines
Principal Investigator: Gaunt, Professor M
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
AstraZeneca UK Limited Merck & Co Inc (MSD)
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: University of Cambridge
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 September 2016 Ends: 31 August 2019 Value (£): 642,774
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Catalysis & Applied Catalysis Chemical Synthetic Methodology
Co-ordination Chemistry
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
18 Feb 2016 EPSRC Physical Sciences Chemistry - February 2016 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Aliphatic amines are central to the function of many biologically active molecules as evidenced by their prevalence in a large number of pharmaceutical agents. The groups appended to these nitrogen atoms are crucial in determining the physical properties of the amine and are linked to how well it interacts with a biological target.

Despite the apparent simplicity of the aliphatic amine motif, the number of general methods available for the synthesis of this important feature is surprisingly small. Methods such as reductive amination, alkylative tactics, hydroamination and transamination have met the demand for many years, however the development of new straightforward methods for the synthesis of complex systems is essential for the continued advance of synthesis. A systematic method for the synthesis of complex aliphatic amines would be valuable to practitioners of drug discovery, and a streamlined approach to these molecules could involve a catalytic process capable of transforming simple, readily available aliphatic amines into complex variants via selective functionalization of their C-H bonds.

Methods that enable the practical and selective functionalization of inert aliphatic C-H bonds have applications in fields that range from fine chemical production to drug discovery. Transition metal catalysis has emerged as a powerful tool to activate these traditionally unreactive C-H bonds. Several classes of functional group can direct C-H activation via a process called cyclometallation; coordination of the metal centre to a proximal Lewis basic atom steers the catalyst into position where the C-H bond can be cleaved. Reaction of the resulting C-metal bond with an external reagent leads to an overall transformation that sees a C-H bond converted into a versatile motif. Cyclometallation has led to a number of useful catalytic C-H functionalization processes that have expanded the chemists toolbox of available reactions; tailoring the electronic properties of directing functionalities has enabled cyclometallation in aliphatic hydrocarbons displaying carboxylic acid, hydroxyl groups, and derivatives of these motifs. Despite these advances, related transformations on aliphatic amines are rare and successful examples require the use of strongly electron withdrawing sulfonyl or bespoke directing groups to modulate the metal coordinating power of the nitrogen atom. As such, their synthetic intractability frequently precludes the wider application of strategic C-H bond activation in aliphatic amine systems.

The overarching aim of this proposal is to establish aliphatic amines as viable feedstock molecules for C-H activation using a novel activation strategy. This will provide distinct C-H disconnections that will form part of a C-H activation road map for synthesis. The aliphatic amine motif is so ubiquitous in pharmaceutically relevant molecules that it is considered a 'privileged' feature and so we will investigate how the multi-faceted C-H activation platform can be translated into viable applications that have impact drug discovery and development.

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