A team from the chemistry department of Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, has designed and synthesized a series of related small organic molecules capable of catalysing enantioselective transformations. Specifically, the molecules — derived from the abundant amino acid valine in a simple four-step process that uses inexpensive reagents — catalyse reactions of unsaturated organoboron reagents with imines and carbonyls. The products of the reactions are enantiomerically pure amines and alcohols that can be used to synthesize more complex, biologically active molecules for applications in chemistry, biology and medicine.
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