Purdue researcher's new 'tool for the organic chemist toolbox' licensed to Sigma-Aldrich

May 23, 2013  

David Colby

Purdue professor David Colby holds a vial of a chemical reagent he created to incorporate flourine into organic compounds. The reagent is safer, easier and better for the environment than those previously available, and has been licensed to a subsidiary of Sigma-Aldrich Corporation. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. and ST. LOUIS, Mo. – A Purdue University researcher's U.S. patent for a safer, easier and "greener" method to incorporate fluorine into organic compounds - a common step in materials processing, drug discovery and synthesis of agricultural treatments - has been licensed to a subsidiary of Sigma-Aldrich Corporation, a St. Louis-based life science and high technology company.

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.

A manuscript detailing Colby's invention of the reagent was recently published in the journal, Organic Letters

About Sigma-Aldrich

Sigma-Aldrich is a leading life science and high technology company whose biochemical, organic chemical products, kits and services are used in scientific research, including genomic and proteomic research, biotechnology, pharmaceutical development, the diagnosis of disease and as key components in pharmaceutical, diagnostics and high technology manufacturing. Sigma-Aldrich customers include more than 1.3 million scientists and technologists in life science companies, university and government institutions, hospitals and industry. The company operates in 38 countries and has nearly 9,000 employees whose objective is to provide excellent service worldwide. Sigma-Aldrich is committed to accelerating customer success through innovation and leadership in life science and high technology. For more information about Sigma-Aldrich, visit www.sigma-aldrich.com

About Purdue Research Foundation

The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Established in 1930, the foundation accepts gifts; administers trusts; funds scholarships and grants; and acquires property on behalf of Purdue. The foundation manages the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization, which operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the United States. 


Cynthia Sequin, 765-588-3340, casequin@prf.org

Elizabeth Gardner, 765-494-2081, ekgardner@purdue.edu 


David A. Colby, 765-496-3962, dcolby@purdue.edu

Thomas Hutton, Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization, 765-588-3486, tkhutton@prf.org


LIPITOR is a registered trademark of Pfizer, Inc.

PREVACID is a registered trademark of Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Inc.

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