David A. Colby, a Purdue assistant professor of medicinal chemistry and organic chemistry, developed a chemical reagent that safely makes fluorine available during the creation of a new chemical compound. This reagent could provide drug manufacturers an improved method for using fluorine in the drug discovery process and enhance large-scale production of drugs for pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Aldrich Chemical Co. LLC has licensed the technology and will make the product available for sale through the Sigma-Aldrich catalog and website. Aldrich signed the license agreement with the Purdue Research Foundation and its Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization.
"Fluorine-carbon bonds are incredibly strong and are the secret to the strength of materials like Teflon and agricultural treatments that withstand the elements, and they also help pharmaceuticals hold up well inside our bodies," Colby said. "Fluorine has greatly advanced these industries, and now we have solved a key problem associated with using a commonly available starting material, fluoroform gas, an environmental hazard that is difficult to use in the laboratory. What we've done is create a new tool for the chemist's toolbox."
Fluoroform gas requires special handling and protection of the user and produces ozone-destroying fluorocarbons if released into the atmosphere. The reagent Colby developed is a stable solid that can be easily stored at room temperature, weighed and measured in the open air and requires no unusual protection measures. The reagent also has little waste and is made up of compounds that are safe for the environment. Once safely added to a solvent contained in the chemical processing equipment, the reagent releases fluoroform gas that is easily incorporated into the chemical process, he said.
Pharmaceutical companies have long recognized the beneficial effects of fluorine atoms in drug molecules because of their ability to improve such things as drug delivery, selectivity and efficacy. About 20 percent of all drugs on the market contain fluorine, including three of the current top-10 best-selling drugs including Lipitor® and Prevacid®.
"A chemist must have ways to manipulate properties in order to study the effectiveness of a drug," Colby said.