Assistant Professor Christine Le in the Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, has received the 2022 Petro-Canada Emerging Innovator Award to support her organic chemistry research program.
The award will provide her with seed funding to develop reaction toolkits that pharmaceutical companies could use to create a variety new fluorine-containing compounds that can then be tested for their medicinal properties.
Adding fluorine to a drug molecule can drastically improve its effectiveness and potency, making fluorinated compounds desirable targets for medicinal drug discovery and development. In fact, about 20 to 30 percent of all pharmaceuticals contain at least one fluorine atom. Despite recent advances in this area of chemistry though, there are limited ways to create structurally diverse fluorinated molecules from a common starting material or reagent.
Le’s project will aim to create tool kits that contain specific precursors and catalysts to selectively fluorinate complex molecules into various derivatives.
“The idea is that from a single complex molecule, we create several fluorine-containing compounds – each with a unique biological profile—that can be fed into medicinal chemistry projects,” said Le.
Her team will be using difluorocarbene (DFC) as their fluorinating agent; but DFC is a highly reactive compound that creates a mixture of products. Le’s research efforts will be focused on controlling the reactivity of DFC with metal catalysts to create novel, desired fluorinated compounds.
In addition to addressing some of the major bottlenecks in the drug discovery and development process related to fluorination chemistry, Le’s team hopes to apply their methods to synthesize novel positron emission tomography (PET) imaging probes.
The Petro-Canada Emerging Innovator Award is given to outstanding new full-time faculty members beginning their academic career at York University. The awards program is a commitment by Petro-Canada (now Suncor Energy Inc.) and York University to encourage excellence in teaching and research that will enrich the learning environment and contribute to society.