A new catalyst will help chemists to make complex molecules from simple building blocks.
In drug discovery, chemists first identify a promising organic molecule, but can then end up synthesizing thousands of analogues in the hope of improving the potential drug's properties. One modification that is often desired is swapping a carbon atom for a nitrogen atom in a ring, but standard processes for this are inefficient. Elisabeth Hennessy and Theodore Betley at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, designed an iron-containing compound that activates a normally unreactive carbon–hydrogen bond. This speeds up and simplifies the desired chemical synthesis by allowing a greater range of precursors to be used.