Over the past decade, the landscape of molecular synthesis has gained major impetus by the introduction of late-stage functionalization (LSF) methodologies. C–H functionalization approaches, particularly, set the stage for new retrosynthetic disconnections, while leading to improvements in resource economy. A variety of innovative techniques have been successfully applied to the C–H diversification of pharmaceuticals, and these key developments have enabled medicinal chemists to integrate LSF strategies in their drug discovery programmes. This Review highlights the significant advances achieved in the late-stage C–H functionalization of drugs and drug-like compounds, and showcases how the implementation of these modern strategies allows increased efficiency in the drug discovery process. Representative examples are examined and classified by mechanistic patterns involving directed or innate C–H functionalization, as well as emerging reaction manifolds, such as electrosynthesis and biocatalysis, among others. Structurally complex bioactive entities beyond small molecules are also covered, including diversification in the new modalities sphere. The challenges and limitations of current LSF methods are critically assessed, and avenues for future improvements of this rapidly expanding field are discussed. We, hereby, aim to provide a toolbox for chemists in academia as well as industrial practitioners, and introduce guiding principles for the application of LSF strategies to access new molecules of interest.
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The authors thank M. A. Hayes and A. Tomberg for helpful discussions, as well as R. Sheppard and D. Antermite for valuable advice on the preparation of this manuscript. L.G. and M.J.J. acknowledge AstraZeneca and the AstraZeneca Postdoc Programme for their financial support. N.K. and L.A. are grateful to the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; German Research Foundation), the Onassis Foundation (fellowship to N.K.) and acknowledge the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Guillemard, L., Kaplaneris, N., Ackermann, L. et al. Late-stage C–H functionalization offers new opportunities in drug discovery. Nat Rev Chem 5, 522–545 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41570-021-00300-6
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