PerspectiveOrganic Chemistry

Lewis acids turn unreactive substrates into pure enantiomers

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Science  26 Feb 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6276, pp. 918-919
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf2577

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Asymmetric synthesis, reactions that produce a high proportion of one enantiomer of a chiral compound relatively to the other, are of ever-growing importance, particularly for creating pure pharmaceuticals. Asymmetric catalysis (1) uses a recyclable or regenerated chiral molecule to perform these reactions, but achieving high yields can be challenging if the substrate is relatively unreactive. On page 949 of this issue, Gatzenmeier et al. (2) report a highly efficient method that relies on an in situ–generated catalyst to produce complex structures in excellent yields of almost pure enantiomers from low-reactivity starting materials.