The FI4P project (Flow and Iron for Pharma) aims to establish more environmental-friendly synthetic methods. This endeavour will rely on expending the reactivity of iron, a plentiful and benign metal, using the expertise of ULiège's CiTOS laboratory in continuous flow cheistry.

Martin Cattoen 


etal-catalysed cross-couplings have emerged as a reliable strategy to build novel chemical scaffolds in various fields from materials science to the pharmaceutical industry. Because in particular to their ability to modularly link two precursors, they have become a standard tool in synthetic chemistry. However, cross-couplings usually require expensive and sometimes toxic catalysts such as palladium or nickel. In recent years, more abundant metals have been investigated, with iron a leading alternative thanks to its low cost and limited toxicity.

In order to better control the behaviour of iron catalysts and extend their applicability, we will use the inherent advantages of continuous flow technology. Indeed, tubular reactors provide a more accurate regulation of experimental conditions compared to usual batch reactors. In turn, the finer tuning of temperature, pressure and concentrations allows one to handle otherwise instable chemical species. As a result, the selectivity of the cross-couplings will be ensured and undesirable by-products will be avoided.

Flow chemistry procedures are also desirable industrially: they facilitate scale up from reaction development to production, and they can be automated to prepare diverse structures more efficiently. This will allow us to deliver a library of compounds of pharmaceutical interest, in partnership with life sciences company NovAliX, based in Strasbourg.

The FI4P project will thus lead to new, lower environmental footprint synthetic processes with direct applications in the pharmaceutical industry.

Martin Cattoen

During general engineering studies at ESPCI Paris, Martin Cattoen has worked both in pharmaceutical research at Janssen Pharmaceutica and in academic organic synthesis. This led him to study catalytic processes, both metallic and bioinspired, during his PhD in Dr. Stellios Arseniyadis's group at Queen Mary University of London. Before joining Dr. Jean‑Christophe Monbaliu at Liège University, Martin also extended his expertise in medicinal chemistry at NovAliX, the industrial partner of the FI4P project.

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