University of Leicester eBulletin

Taking a Lead with Fluorine

February 2003
No 50
 

Two grants were awarded recently to organofluorine chemists at the University of Leicester by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

The grants form part of the DTI’s Manufacturing Molecules Initiative (MMI), which was established to consolidate and advance the UK’s position as a leading manufacturer of complex, high value chemicals. 

Organofluorine chemicals impact on almost every impact of consumer life and the country’s economy, through agrochemical, pharmaceutical, semiconductor and telecommunications industries. For example, up to 20% of new drug molecules in clinical trials contain one or more fluorine atoms. The challenge lies in getting the correct numbers of fluorine atoms into the right locations, which is the chemists’ role. 

The MMI is funding a Technology Transfer Forum and a Pilot Study, both based in the Department of Chemistry and led by Professor Jonathan Percy.

The Technology Transfer Forum brings the Leicester group together with groups in Durham, Oxford and UMIST. A Technology Translator employed by the Forum will help us to identify the key technologies needed by industry to secure the next generation of important fluorinated molecules. 

Professor Percy said: “Important issues include the identification of new fluorinated raw materials and the development of chemistries that allow complex fluorinated molecules to be manufactured with minimal environmental impact. 

“Even the way we carry out chemistry has to change, as we learn to use new reaction technologies like coherent microwave synthesis equipment, and continuous-flow microreactors to speed up and clean up chemical synthesis. 

“We will organise workshops and masterclasses to train young researchers in the key technologies, and will seek to procure long term industrial and EU support to secure UK and European competitiveness on equal terms with the large American and Japanese groups in the field.”

The Pilot study employs a post-doctoral worker for 6 months within the research group of Professor Percy. The project concerns the development of chemistry that allows the syntheses of valuable fluorinated intermediates under more acceptable reaction conditions. 

The project involves the scale-up of some important academic chemistry to demonstrate its industrial potential, and afford access to new types of molecules for use within drug substances.  The funding also allows the acquisition of some important equipment for the project.

Commenting on the two awards, Professor Percy said: “This is a great opportunity for us to raise the profile of UK organofluorine chemistry on the world stage and we hope that UK industry will get behind the initiative and help us to reach our goals”.

NOTE TO EDITORS:   Further information is available from Professor J M Percy, telephone 0116 252 2140, fax 0116 252 3789, email jmp29@le.ac.uk

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