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Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2018 Oct 26;57(44):14476-14481. doi: 10.1002/anie.201805961. Epub 2018 Aug 16.

Metal-Free Synthesis of Pharmaceutically Important Biaryls by Photosplicing.

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Department of Biomolecular Chemistry, Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology, HKI, Beutenbergstrasse 11a, 07745, Jena, Germany.
Transfer Group Antiinfectives, Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology (HKI), 07745, Jena, Germany.
Friedrich Schiller University Jena, 07743, Jena, Germany.


Many pharmaceuticals feature biaryl motifs that are crucial for their binding to the target. Yet, benchmark methods for selective cross-couplings rely on highly toxic heavy metal catalysts, which are unfavorable in the synthesis of pharmaceuticals. Metal-free coupling reactions, on the other hand, may require harsh conditions and lack selectivity. We report a novel, metal-free cross-coupling reaction that involves the tethering of two phenyl groups by a temporary, traceless sulfonamide linker that directs a photochemical aryl fusion into a single coupling product. The perfect regio- and chemoselectivity of the reaction could be rationalized by a cyclic intermediate, which fragments into the biaryl and volatile side products. Using a flow reactor, we synthesized numerous substituted biaryl building blocks for important therapeutics in high yields, such as antibiotics, antitumor, neuroprotective and cholesterol-lowering agents as well as antiarthritic non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The new method was successfully employed in a total synthesis of cannabinol, an important analgesic and antiemetic therapeutic. We also report a metal-free synthesis of key building blocks used for the preparation of sartans, antihypertensive agents that rank among the top blockbuster drugs worldwide. This safe and convenient protocol is a valuable alternative for the widely used metal-dependent aryl cross-coupling methods.


biaryls; cross-couplings; photochemistry; sulfonamides; synthetic methods

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