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Shenzhen Grubbs Institute published twice in JACS

Dec 26, 2018 Research News

Now that the Shenzhen Grubbs Institute has been completed, 2005 Chemistry Nobel Laureate Professor Robert H. Grubbs has transferred part of his major research projects to the Shenzhen Grubbs Institute at Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech).

Recently the team at Shenzhen Grubbs Institute has had two papers published in the top journal of the American Chemical Society, J. Am. Chem. Soc. (IF=14.357). The Shenzhen Grubbs Institute was the affiliation institution for both papers, in their papers on catalytic chemistry and synthetic chemistry.

Their first paper was called "Highly Active Platinum Catalysts for Nitrile and Cyanohydrin Hydration: Catalyst Design and Ligand Screening via High-Throughput Techniques." It described the design, development, and application of several new cyanohydration catalysts. The synthesis of amides by the nitrile hydration reaction is a main way to prepare various amides in both academia and industry. Amides are the core starting materials of many medicines and polymer materials, so there is substantial industrial demand. As a result, the development of catalysts which can efficiently realize the conversion of nitriles to amide has become one of the important goals pursued by synthetic chemists in the past decades. In their study, the Grubbs team used their experience in developing new catalysts to discover a series of new nitrile hydration catalysts (Figure 1 below) through high-throughput screening, catalyst synthesis and optimization of reaction conditions via high-throughput technology as well. Compared with the commercially available nitrile hydration catalysts, Grubbs catalysts have made great breakthroughs in the following three aspects: 1) the catalytic efficiency is at least tens times better than that of known commercial catalysts; 2) nitrile hydration via Grubbs catalysts can be achieved at room temperature, while known catalysts usually need 80-150 oC to achieve this conversion; 3) It is the first metallic catalyst to efficiently achieve the hydration of alpha-hydroxyl cyanide. As members of the Grubbs team, Chen Bo, assistant professor of research at SUSTech, and Li Chengcheng, a doctoral student of Chemistry Department, participated in the research work.

In the past ten years, Professor Grubbs has further developed Grubbs catalysts named after him, and developed catalysts for olefin metathesis with high cis-selectivity and stereoretentive selectivity. Professor Xu Chen and Professor Grubbs jointly published a paper entitled "Concise Syntheses of 12-Prostaglandin J Natural Products via Stereoretentive Metathesis." This second paper described the application of the new olefin redeposition catalyst to efficiently realize the total synthesis of natural products of Prostaglandins (prostaglandins). Prostaglandins have been found to have a wide range of biological functions and medical applications in mammalian tissues. For example, four compounds of the 12-prostaglandin J family recently discovered (shown in Figure 2 below) have significant anticancer activity and have attracted the extensive interest in synthetic chemists. The Grubbs team used its latest catalyst to complete the synthesis of four 12-prostaglandin J natural products in only 7-8 steps (the longest linear step) through a “one-pot” stereoretentive metathesis strategy. So far, this is the shortest and most efficient way to achieve the synthetic route of this kind of molecule.

Left: Fig. 1 Right: Fig. 2

With the support of the Catalysis Center of California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the Grubbs team completed the ligands screening and reaction conditions optimization using the high- throughput equipment of the center. The Caltech Catalytic Center is a research platform established by Professor Grubbs to accelerate the research and development of catalysts and reaction condition optimization. It aims to strengthen crossed research among different research fields. It is worth mentioning that with the participation of Professor Grubbs and Executive Director Zhiping Zheng, the Shenzhen Grubbs Institute is building a catalysis center with such functions. Once completed, the center will greatly improve SUSTech’s research facility and development capacity in related fields, and help tackle key scientific research topics.

Professor Grubbs’ research work focuses on the catalyst design, synthsis, and screening, as well as the application of catalysts in synthetic chemistry and polymer chemistry.

Paper Link 1:

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jacs.8b11667

Paper Link 2:

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jacs.8b12816

Source: Shenzhen Grubbs Institute

Translated and Adapted: Chris Edwards

Proofread: Xing Xiangyou

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