Science and Engineering

Colorado State University

Tomislav Rovis, Eugene Y. Chen
Fort Collins, CO
$1,000,000
December 2013

An enzyme’s selectivity in controlling reactions is supremely powerful, yet it is also its biggest limitation: only a handful of reactions are amenable to enzymatic catalysis.  Conversely, transition metal complexes mediate a vast number of common organic and polymerization reactions.  Union of the generality of transition metal-based transformations with the selectivity available in enzymatic processes would represent a paradigm shift in fine chemical and materials synthesis.  Hence, this project seeks to enable just such a union through creating artificial metalloenzyme catalysts by embedding unnatural metal catalysts in natural biomolecules for materials and fine chemical synthesis, harnessing the strengths of both metal catalysis and biomolecular environments.  Four specific aims are to be achieved en route to accomplishing this central project objective.  It is envisioned that this new transformative catalysis technology will: provide a new tool for makers in many disciplines, enable new directions with an approach orthogonal to traditional methods, achieve unprecedented selectivity and stereoselectivity in the synthesis of fine chemicals and polymer materials, and also make enzymes perform unnatural reactions.  Success in this venture will enable the inaccessible science of organic synthesis to be harnessed into a “kit” technology and become widely used across science and engineering fields.

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