The straight dope on the scope of chemical reactions

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Science  15 Apr 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6283, pp. 294-295
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf3539

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More than 100 million molecular compounds have been reported, and the many synthetic methods that have been developed are the source of this diversity. Reports of new synthetic reactions often include substrate scope—that is, how reactivity varied for molecules with the same main reaction center and a variety of different substituents at secondary positions (see the figure, panel A). However, chemists often pursue very complex target molecules (e.g., natural products), and most steps involve reactants bearing many substituents whose presence can adversely affect the outcome. We highlight different tools that are emerging to help chemists determine, “Will this reaction work for my molecule?”