Copper catalysis in a blue light

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Science  12 Feb 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6274, pp. 666
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf1071

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A plethora of biologically active molecules contain chiral carbon centers bearing four different functional groups. However, as more groups are added to the carbon during chemical synthesis, the more likely they are to inhibit or even block subsequent reactions on the way to full substitution. To obtain a particular enantiomer also demands a chiral catalyst that displays both high reactivity and exquisite shape selectivity in the catalyst-substrate binding event. On page 681 of this issue, Kainz et al. (1) describe a solution to this problem that focuses on nitrogen-containing carbon centers, a frequent feature of pharmaceuticals, materials, and natural products, by combining base-metal catalysis, visible-light photoredox catalysis, and asymmetric synthesis.