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Organometallic Chemistry in Pharmaceutical R&D

The world of pharmaceutical research, development, and manufacturing faces continuous challenges in optimizing production of affordable medicines for improving human health while reducing the environmental footprint of chemical manufacturing. Organometallic chemistry—particularly catalysis to make the synthesis of new compounds as efficient as possible—is perhaps the most critical factor in this endeavor.

The ACS journal Organometallics has produced a Special Issue that explores the latest advances in pharmaceutical R&D. The issue includes a Tutorial Review (designed for use in undergraduate classrooms and by graduate students) along with three reviews summarizing recent work in the field, plus 14 articles presenting new research results. A unique aspect of the Special Issue is the authors nearly equally represent pharmaceutical companies and universities, pointing to the value of collaborative research.

This Special Issue, titled “The Roles of Organometallic Research in Pharmaceutical Research & Development,” was edited by Organometallics Associate Editor Deryn E. Fogg of the Centre for Catalysis Research & Innovation at the University of Ottawa and Guest Editor Louis-Charles Campeau of the Department of Process Research & Development at pharmaceutical company Merck.

As Fogg and Campeau point out in their editorial, not many years ago a Special Issue of Organometallics dedicated to the impact of organometallic chemistry in pharmaceutical R&D would have been a contradiction in terms: In the 1980s, chemists rarely used catalysis in medicinal chemistry production steps, relying on stoichiometric reactions that generated much waste. Pioneering research since then, and efforts by chemists to overcome barriers to implement new reaction chemistry, including Nobel Prize-winning work on cross-coupling and olefin metathesis, have led to a sea change.

“As catalytic technologies matured and a generation of chemists trained in these methods became practitioners in pharma, such methodologies began to be incorporated more frequently and with greater success,” they write. This evolution continues, they add, as the most recent generations of graduate student and postdoctoral researchers have begun to be trained in these methods. This promotes the continued development of catalytic reactions to address these challenges, in turn resulting in more reliable and robust chemistry. Thus, a Special Issue dedicated to the impact of organometallic chemistry in pharmaceutical R&D is timely today.

“With this Special Issue, we seek to further connect the pharmaceutical and academic communities in catalysis and to inspire new developments and applications of organometallic chemistry and catalysis in the pharmaceutical industry,” Campeau and Fogg state. “We hope to promote cross-fertilization of ideas and practices, and to give researchers in academia—including younger practitioners who represent the leading talent of tomorrow—a window onto a fertile area of industrial innovation and a perspective on needs and challenges that emerge further down the innovation pipeline.”

Read Campeau and Fogg’s full editorial.

Read the Organometallics Special Issue “The Roles of Organometallic Research in Pharmaceutical Research & Development.”

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