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Macmillan Lab: Serendipity Pays Off

[From Princeton Journal Watch] Mar 29, 2013. Serendip­ity –­­ the act of find­ing some­thing good or use­ful while not specif­i­cally search­ing for it – can some­times pay off. Now Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity chem­istry researchers report that this non-specific type of search­ing has yielded a new method of build­ing mol­e­cules for use in new drugs, new agri­cul­tural chem­i­cals and even new perfumes.

In a paper pub­lished today in the jour­nal Sci­ence, Princeton’s David MacMil­lan and his team describe the dis­cov­ery of a new chem­i­cal reac­tion – not noted before in nature or in any lab – that could assist phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal chemists and oth­ers who rou­tinely cre­ate new chem­i­cals for a vari­ety of industries.

Until now, no one real­ized this chem­i­cal reac­tion – which involves adding atoms to a spe­cific car­bon atom on a mol­e­cule – could occur, accord­ing to MacMil­lan, the James S. McDon­nell Dis­tin­guished Uni­ver­sity Pro­fes­sor of Chem­istry at Prince­ton. “If you show this chem­i­cal reac­tion to most chemists, they imme­di­ately say ‘that’s impos­si­ble,’” MacMil­lan said.

In this case, the team dis­cov­ered this “impos­si­ble” reac­tion using an approach MacMil­lan pio­neered that he calls “accel­er­ated serendip­ity.”... Read the full article here...