PerspectiveOrganic Chemistry

Tricks for noncovalent catalysis

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Science  10 Nov 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6364, pp. 720
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaq0680

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Catalysis is an important strategy in the syntheses of societally relevant molecules; it is estimated that 90% of chemical processes rely on catalysts (1). Catalytic methods for the construction of chiral molecules, compounds that can exist as mirror image isomers, are critical in the syntheses of bioactive molecules such as pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals (2, 3). Mirror-image isomers (enantiomers) can have substantially different biological properties, so the selective synthesis of just one enantiomer is desirable. On page 761 of this issue, Banik et al. (4) describe an inventive catalytic approach that combines hydrogen-bond donors and Lewis acids to generate enhanced catalytic species able to effect new types of enantioselective reactions.