Courtesy of Corning(R) - Advanced Flow(TM) G1 Photo Reactor

Fundamental research is undoubtedly the primary source of knowledge leading to technological applications that improve industrial processes. With increasing specialization, industry needs to establish means to cope with the large amount of academic knowledge generated that will eventually be applied in its day-to-day business. For this reason, collaboration between academia and industry is key for this knowledge transfer to be effective.

On the other hand, academia can rely on industry partners to guide its efforts to apply its discoveries to solve industrial challenges.

In the field of drug development, there is growing demand for safer and more efficient, and at the same time environmentally friendly processes. Continuous flow chemistry has taken a leading position in the race to meet these demands.

Flow chemistry has two characteristics that are beneficial in all phases of drug development. First, the development of a process in continuous flow facilitates scale-up from reaction development to production; the protocols are also safer and require less energy. Second, a continuous flow platform can be automated, allowing the preparation of diverse structures more quickly and efficiently.

Our strong and long-standing relationship with CiTOS, a world-leading academic group in flow chemistry led by Dr. Jean-Christophe Monbaliu of the University of Liege, ensures NovAliX to be up to date in this rapidly evolving field. In this way, we can effectively apply new flow chemistry methods to our drug discovery and process research projects. In parallel, the industrial expertise of NovAliX enriches CiTOS, helping them to find solutions to technical challenges and to implement methodologies such as Design of Experiment-based optimization to deliver more robust results and more reliable synthetic protocols.

Our joint project combining flow chemistry and iron catalysis aims to establish more environmental friendly synthetic methods. This effort is based on harnessing the reactivity of iron, an abundant and harmless metal, in continuous flow processes.

Dr Martin Cattoen works on the project, sharing his time between CiTOS and NovAliX laboratories, where Martin works under the guidance of Dr Sylvain Guizzetti, Head of Flow and Process Chemistry at NovAliX. Martin, during his studies at ESPCI in Paris, has worked in both a pharmaceutical company (R&D) and in an academic organic synthesis group. This led him to study catalytic processes, both metal and bio-inspired, during his PhD in Dr Stellios Arseniyadis’ group at Queen Mary University of London. Martin’s expertise is key to this project in which continuous flow technology will be harnessed to exert control over reactive intermediates, thus ensuring functionalization of halide precursors with reactive lithium organyls generated in situ. The particularly high reaction rates observed in iron-catalyzed cross-couplings will allow the incorporation of valuable functional groups normally incompatible with organolithium derivatives.

This direct transfer of academic innovations to industrial world will allow NovAliX to apply modern and environmentally friendly synthetic protocols to kilogram-scale production of valuable APIs and also to generate new relevant structures for the pharmaceutical industry. More specifically, it will be applied to the enrichment of our fragment library as well as the development of NCE for DNA-encoded libraries.


Dr Jean-Christophe M. Monbaliu is currently Associate Professor at the University of Liège (Belgium) and serves as Associate Editor of the Journal of Flow Chemistry. He is heading the Center for Integrated Technology and Organic Synthesis (CiTOS, www.citos.uliege.be), the first European Corning® Advanced-Flow™ reactor qualified lab. His research interests revolve around synthetic organic chemistry but are multidisciplinary in essence. They aim at (a) designing cheaper and more efficient routes for the preparation of high value-added chemicals such as active pharmaceutical ingredients, (b) accelerating the transition from petrobased to biobased strategies and (c) developing efficient processes with a lower environmental impact.

Dr Martin Cattoen is currently Postdoctoral research assistant at CiTOS. He obtained his PhD in Chemistry in 2019 at Queen Mary University of London after a Master in Chemistry at the Sorbonne University, Paris, 2015. His research activity as indicated in the article covers continuous-flow processes, cross-coupling and organometallics chemistry.

Dr Sylvain Guizzetti is head of chemical process research and flow chemistry at NovAliX. Sylvain is actively contributing to the joint project “Flow and Iron for Pharma” with CiTOS laboratory.

We kindly thank them for their contributions to this post.

*The images have been provided by the CiTOS laboratory and by Courtesy of Corning® – Advanced FlowTM G1 Photo Reactor

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