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One of the most active current areas of chemical research is centered on how to synthesize handed (chiral) compounds in a selective manner, rather than as mixtures of mirror-image forms (enantiomers) with different three-dimensional structures (stereochemistries). Nature points the way in this endeavor: different enantiomers of a given biomolecule can exhibit dramatically different biological activities, and enzymes have therefore evolved to catalyze reactions with exquisite selectivity for the formation of one enantiomeric form over the other. Drawing inspiration from these natural catalysts, chemists have developed a variety of synthetic small-molecule catalysts that can achieve levels of selectivity approaching, and in some cases matching, those observed in enzymatic reactions.
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