Discovering, Making and Exploiting New Families of Atropisomers

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Chemistry


The molecules which make up drugs, fragrances, flavours, dyes and materials all have properties determined by their shape. Some molecules are fairly rigid - many drug molecules have a degree of rigidity which assists their binding to receptors in the body. Others are flexible - the polymers which make plastics for example. In both cases achieving control over the shape of molecules is one of the challenges which faces chemists. In our research we aim to discover new types of molecules falling somewhere between the extremes of rigidity and flexibility - molecules which have some useful flexibility but only within limits: these molecules are known as atropisomeric, from the Greek for can't twist or turn . Atropisomers are found as important biological compounds with medicinal properties, and also form an important part of many catalysts used for synthesising drugs and other products. However, only one or two types of atropisomers have been studied, even though many more almost certainly can exist. We want to discover these new families of atropisomeric molecules, and invent ways of making them with control over their shape. This will allow us chemists to make compounds related to atropisomeric compounds found in nature, with medicinal properties, and hence target them at particular disease. Or it could allow chemists to make new catalysts, improving the way existing compounds are made, making drugs or other valuable products cheaper and easier to make. Or it might even open up new architectural features which molecules may possess, and hence allow chemists to make materials with new properties and functions.


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Clayden J (2009) The challenge of atropisomerism in drug discovery. in Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English)

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Clayden J (2008) Enantioselective synthesis of an atropisomeric diaryl ether. in Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English)

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Clayden J (2006) The twisted amide 2-quinuclidone: 60 years in the making. in Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English)