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April 5, 2013
More Reaction Discovery
The reaction discovery field continues to increase its throughput, on ever-smaller amounts of material. (That link has several previous discussions here imbedded in it). The latest report uses laser-assisted mass spec to analyze aliquots (less than a microliter each) of 696 different reactions and controls, pulled directly from the 96-well plates with no purification. That took the MALDI-TOF machine about two hours, in case you're wondering - setting up the experiments definitely took a lot longer (!)
The key to getting this to work was having a pyrene moeity attached to the back end of the substrate(s) for reaction discovery. This serves as a mass spec label - it ionizes very efficiently under the laser conditions, and allows excellent signal/noise coming out of all the other reaction gunk that might be in there. You can monitor the disappearance of the starting material and/or the appearance of new products, as you wish. In this case, the test bed was an electron-rich alkyne starting material, exposed to a variety of reacting partners and various metal catalysts. The screen picked up two previously unknown annulations, which were then optimized in a second round of experiments.
I continue to think that this sort of work has the potential to remake synthetic chemistry. Whenever there's some potential for new reactions to be found (and metal-catalyzed systems are a prime example) these techniques will let us survey the landscape much more quickly. There's no reason to think that we've managed to find even a good fraction of the useful chemistry out there.
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