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New Horizons in C–H Activation: the ‘Real-World Molecules’ Challenge

Total Cost €


EC-Contrib. €






Project "RuCat" data sheet

The following table provides information about the project.


Organization address
address: OXFORD ROAD
postcode: M13 9PL

contact info
title: n.a.
name: n.a.
surname: n.a.
function: n.a.
email: n.a.
telephone: n.a.
fax: n.a.

 Coordinator Country United Kingdom [UK]
 Total cost 2˙498˙960 €
 EC max contribution 2˙498˙959 € (100%)
 Programme 1. H2020-EU.1.1. (EXCELLENT SCIENCE - European Research Council (ERC))
 Code Call ERC-2018-ADG
 Funding Scheme ERC-ADG
 Starting year 2019
 Duration (year-month-day) from 2019-09-01   to  2024-08-31


Take a look of project's partnership.

# participants  country  role  EC contrib. [€] 
1    THE UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER UK (MANCHESTER) coordinator 2˙498˙959.00


 Project objective

A 2018 joint report from pharma identified organic synthesis as one of the major bottlenecks in drug discovery today. In the highly competitive discovery environments, only fast-to-synthesise molecules are targeted, based mostly on five well-tested and proven synthetic methods. This approach has led to only a small portion of the chemical shape space being explored over the last decades and has been partly blamed for the recent low success rates in new drug development. The report emphasises the need for ideal tools such as late stage functionalisation, which would allow simply replacing any C‒H bond in a bioactive molecule with any desired functionality, thus greatly accelerating the synthesis of new candidates from a lead compound. However, the field of C‒H activation is significantly behind in achieving this aim: most biologically active molecules contain several polar and/or delicate functionalities (‘real world’ molecules), whereas most C‒H activation methods use harsh conditions, incompatible with delicate groups, and catalysts that tend to poison in the presence of polar groups.

This ERC Advanced Grant addresses this major challenge by building a new tool-set of ruthenium catalysts that will finally be able to deliver late stage functionalisation on ‘real world’ molecules, thus allowing a new dawn for development not only of new drugs, but also of agrochemicals, aromatic based organic materials and associated areas. The project builds on a recent key mechanistic breakthrough by the PI's group on the operation of Ru-catalysts (Nature Chemistry 2018) that reveals a completely different pathway to catalyst design from that followed in the field in the last two decades. This new class of catalysts presents unprecedented high reactivity and compatibility with sensitive ‘real world’ molecules. The PI is in a unique position to capitalize on this discovery and lead the way towards global late stage functionalisation of ‘real world’ molecules.

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