ScienceHub # 2: Click chemistry

    Chemist Valery Fokin in early October was prophesied the Nobel Prize in chemistry, although the applicants are not known by the laws of its implementation. Nevertheless, all Russian media literally exploded with materials and interviews with Valery. We met him at Post-Science last spring, when there was no such excitement yet, and now Valery is writing down a course on new chemistry for us, which we plan to release in late November and early December. Valery opened his laboratory of chemical synthesis and catalysis at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology in October, but in general he constantly flies from Russia to the USA, where he continues his research, therefore the fact that Post-Science was able to visit his lab is a great success, which we share with you. We managed to shoot the scientists working in it, and Valery himself, who told us about what click chemistry is, what are its basic principles, what are her prospects and who will develop this new field of knowledge. But all in order.

    Click chemistry. Start

    The history of this trend in chemistry is not so long, it begins only in 1997, when the term itself appeared, and in 2001 Barry Sharpless published the first review article on the concept of click chemistry in the journal. Speaking of click chemistry, Valery compares it with an ideal tool that will allow you to build new molecules like from designer cubes. His favorite look is a fastex clasp on a bag. On the set, for example, he used the bag of our operator, in which he stores cameras. This clasp also has a distinctive click sound. Such a “click” allows you to guaranteedly build reactions, when a set of some elements will always give the same result and it is irreversible. That is, it is such a molecular constructor, a set of chemical reactions, processes, in order to synthesize molecules in the most efficient way.

    Valery Fokin: “That is, the idea is that A + B gives C and nothing more. And it always works and in any conditions. The basic idea of ​​click chemistry is that if we imagine that we have two reagents, then the reaction will take place always and everywhere. Accordingly, an irreversible bond will be obtained, a fastener, which will allow us to connect 2 reactive blocks, two molecules into one. And this connection is irreversible. ”

    Why click chemistry is needed, well, firstly, it opens up enormous opportunities in pharmaceuticals, but more on that later, secondly, it allows you to better understand how molecules work in order to trace the fate of some compounds responsible for various diseases, then there is how it happens at the molecular level. In a disease situation, you need to be at the place of events, where it all happens, and, accordingly, enter labels to see everything with your own eyes in the literal sense. And in this case, click chemistry methods can be used as a reporter that runs into the system.

    What is the feature

    The first thing that Valery notes is that this is not pure science, not chemistry in its traditional form, but a new area at the junction of various disciplines, which will be used by biologists, chemists, and doctors. That is, again, it is a universal tool, a kind of recipe, when there is a set of reagents and instructions on how to use them in various cases and for different purposes.

    VF: “In general, this area is very interdisciplinary, and the task of chemists was to make a certain set of reagents and reactions that would allow them to be used in any way, no matter in which area. People do not have to be chemists in order to use the results of this science. It’s like a computer, like a black box in which many processes take place, but users get only the final result. ”

    New professions

    That is why the future chemist is also such a versatile soldier who has basic knowledge in chemistry, biology and medicine. If we talk about the latter, then it opens up wide opportunities. This is what Valery calls the “pharmacy of the future”, when medicine will not only be personalized, but click chemistry methods will allow you to collect medicines directly at the pharmacy for different people and different diseases. And then, of course, we need new pharmacists and doctors who will work directly with the patient, starting from diagnostic techniques and ending with specific recipes. That is, click chemists will develop and search for those bricks and blocks from which the new drug will be assembled.

    Whether it is necessary and possible to actually become a click chemist is a question. Because it is rather a philosophy, a certain approach, which can be used by "classical" chemists. Therefore, one should rather go along the traditional path of education - through the chemistry department and research in the field of chemistry, but with a focus on catalysis, on those reactions that may be useful in the context of click chemistry. That is, it is important for future chemists to understand how to use the tool correctly, called click chemistry. At the same time, Valery, on the basis of his laboratory, intends to launch a special course focused on interdisciplinarity at the PhysTech, noting that there were no such undertakings in Russia before.

    VF: “The special training of these people should cover just a few disciplines - they must know the minimum amount of chemical science, of course, understand and imagine what organic synthesis represents in its simplest manifestations. Must know medical chemistry at the level of what they want to receive. If previously there were always semi-empirical studies - chemists made compounds, biologists tested them, doctors then tested them on organisms and used them in clinical trials, now interactions are taking place between all involved scientists who should be well versed in chemistry, biology, medicine, not being deeply trained specialists in each area. ”


    It’s very difficult to say exactly how click chemistry methods will be used in the future. Perhaps it will lead to new pharmacies where, thanks to personalized medicine, medicines will be collected individually from various components. It can also bear fruit in the field of creating new antibiotics, because the bacterial world adapts very quickly to new conditions, which means that you need to constantly come up with new antibiotics, to be one step ahead of nature. It also allows you to make new discoveries in the field of new materials. In any case, in the future, scientists will be needed who can use the development of click chemistry correctly.

    VF: “In the future, the most interesting will happen in unexpected and applied implementations of this chemistry. Not necessarily in industry, but in new areas that we now do not even clearly represent. Most likely, new specialists will be those people who are well aware of why new materials are needed, why diagnostic compounds are needed, that is, what diseases can be diagnosed, how can they be treated using exactly different variants of chemical synthesis molecules. That is, they themselves will not be synthetic organic chemists, but they will know why they want to get something new, what compounds they want to get in order to solve their specific problem. Click chemistry can be seen as a tool if they know that, in principle, they have a tool,

    If you don’t want to read, you can watch a video with Valery Fokin here.

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