Modafinil is a unique CNS stimulant that lacks any addiction liability. We developed a very short enantioselective route to one of its enantiomers. This new route employs microorganisms containing oxidative enzymes capable to deliver a desired sulfoxide in a highly enantioselective manner. Currently, modafinil is being investigated for the treatment of cocaine and metamphetamine addicts, and in the treatment of ADHD.
Our group is also currently developing an asymmetric chemo-enzymatic oxidation of alkenes. Epoxidation of indene is of particular interest to our group. Indene oxide is a valuable starting material for the syntheses of indinavir (Merck's HIV protease inhibitor), several chiral catalysts (Jacobsen's Cr(III) Schiff base), and also for the synthesis of a new chiral auxiliary developed in our group. Having a green asymmetric epoxidation process of indene will be attractive to the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. We will present two successful applications of green chemistry principles in the efficient preparation of useful compounds for synthetic and medicinal chemists.