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Dear Chemists,

We’re all aware of the situation we all are currently facing. We do these jobs for a love of chemistry and to steal a punchline from my old employer, making a meaningful difference to patients humanity.

Now is the time when we can openly collaborate to do our part and potentially protect many lives.

Gilead’s Remdesivir looks to be the most promising compound to help tackle COVID-19 in the short/medium term, along with a number of molecules that are in clinical development or repurposing of marketed drugs (including hydroxychloroquine, camostat etc., to name a few).

If any of these show positive effects, then supply will not be able to meet demand.

Remdesivir is patented and these will be active for many years. However, companies like Abbvie have already agreed to open up competition to its HIV med Kaletra (Aluvia).

I’m sure Gilead’s chemists have come up with robust routes for Remdesivir, but novel manufacturing routes will need to developed very rapidly, so the available chemical pool can be used as efficiently and innovatively as possible.

As a community that is used to innovating and solving problems, we can work openly and collaboratively, to provide rapid solutions.

From my reading of the literature the lactone below is a key intermediate in the synthesis of Remdesivir.

lactone - o2h discovery

Further literature review shows the lactone can in turn be made from:

Lactone - o2h discovery

This bicycle is an interesting structure, but more importantly, it can be synthesised from lignocellulose, which is the most abundant and renewable biomass on earth. A number of chemistry groups have evaluated this process in the past, but conversion and yields still remain modest.

We have some of the greatest minds on the planet working across chemistry. Solving problems like these through open source discussions and experiments will undoubtedly put us in a stronger position over the coming months to increase the number of available treatment options and hopefully save many lives.

The o2h group supports early stage therapeutic companies through collaborative drug discovery research, investment and incubation, with teams in Cambridge, UK and Ahmedabad in India. We are prepared to help this cause in any way we can.

If plans can be rapidly collated, I’m sure governments across the world would see this effort as essential and allow chemical shipments and key research to be continued.

Let’s make sure when we look back in six months’ time we can be proud of our collective legacy and what we were able to deliver for ourselves, families, colleagues, friends and humanity.

Andy Morley

Chief Scientific Officer, o2h group

(Img source:

Press Release – Curza and o2h discovery announce a multi-FTE chemistry collaboration against gram negative

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