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Scripps Research Institute awarded patent for remarkable chemical technology
Date:5/20/2008

ation of click chemistry's importance.

Click chemistry focuses mainly on reactions involving azides, a class of nitrogen-containing molecules, and alkynes, a group of hydrocarbons such as acetylene. These groups have an extreme chemical fondness for "clicking" with each other to form stable molecules known as triazoles. As importantly, these two groups are extremely reticent to bond with any other types of molecules. Among other benefits, this means reactions involving these groups can be done almost anywhereincluding in water and blood where many other reactions are impossiblewithout forming unwanted byproducts.

At the beginning of the work, one limiting factor with the azides and alkynes was that reactions between them usually proceeded slowly. But in 2001, Fokin and Luke Green (then a postdoc in the lab and a co-inventor) made a surprising discovery that copper salts dramatically accelerated azide-alkyne cycloaddition, and led to the new patent in the process. The scientists found that when copper was present along with azides and alkynes, the reaction between them could proceed millions of times faster and with almost 100 percent reliabilityan almost unheard of concept in chemistry. "The copper acts as a sort of universal connector," says Fokin. No matter what kind of azide and alkyneone could be attached to another molecule and one could be attached to a caryou will make the link between the two."

Though some questions about the mechanisms involved remain open, in general copper interacts with both azides and alkynes to slightly alter them, making them more reactive with each other, dramatically facilitating formation of triazoles. But despite this hyperactive reactivity, the two groups remain inert to other types of molecules.

"It was pure serendipity," says Sharpless of the discovery of the copper effect. "I just couldn't believe that reaction. It sounds like magic, but nothing can stop it. It's like a black hole." Remark
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Contact: Keith McKeown
kmckeown@scripps.edu
858-784-8134
Scripps Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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