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Durham University

Department of Chemistry

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SCI Process Chemistry Award for Professor Graham Sandford

(23 January 2018)

Congratulations to Professor Graham Sandford and the Durham Fluorine Group on receiving the 2018 SCI Process Chemistry Award sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline-AstraZeneca-Syngenta-Pfizer for research on selective direct fluorination and continuous flow fluorination technology development. The highly competitive award is intended to recognise research into industrially-relevant areas of synthetic organic chemistry in order to raise awareness of the challenges faced by synthetic chemists in the pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries. A panel composed of eight process chemists from AstraZeneca, GSK, Pfizer and Syngenta selected the winner and, as part of the prize, Professor Sandford will present an award lecture at the 2018 SCI Process Chemistry Conference in Cambridge.

The Durham Fluorine Group studies the synthesis and fundamental chemistry of both fully and partially fluorinated molecules. In particular, they are interested in developing new methodologies for the construction of carbon-fluorine bonds and gaining a greater understanding of the role that fluorine plays on the nature of reactive intermediates in organic synthesis. Developing related enabling technologies for the application of elemental fluorine to synthetic processes is a major research focus and breakthroughs in the application of continuous flow techniques have proved particularly powerful in overcoming a number of the challenges associated with handling fluorine gas. Recent highlights from the Durham Fluorine Group are given below.

Continuous Flow Synthesis of WHO Essential Medicine Flucytosine using Fluorine.

A one-step continuous flow process has been developed for the reaction of inexpensive cytosine with fluorine gas, initially using stainless steel tubular laboratory flow reactors. In collaboration with MEPI and Sanofi-Aventis, the process was successfully transferred topilot-scale silicon carbide reactor devices and is readily scalable to the manufacturing scale with low initial capital expenditure. 

Chiral Fluorolactam Derivatives.

In a collaboration with the GlaxoSmithKilne Green Chemistry and Biocatalysis groups, a combined chemoenzymatic synthesis of an enantiopure fluorolactam, an intermediate of a GSK clinical candidate, was developed using fluorine gas for the construction of the C-F bond and amidase CAL-B 10,000 for the key desymmetrisation step. 

More recent information on this successful award is at