General access to cubanes: ideal bioisosteres of ortho-, meta-, and para-substituted benzenes

23 January 2023, Version 1


The replacement of benzene rings with sp3-hybridized bioisosteres in drug candidates generally improves pharmacokinetic properties while retaining biological activity. Rigid, strained frameworks such as bicyclo[1.1.1]pentane and cubane are particularly well-suited since the ring strain imparts high bond strength and thus metabolic stability on its C–H bonds. Cubane is the ideal bioisostere since it provides the closest geometric match to benzene. At present, however, all cubanes in drug design, like almost all benzene bioisosteres, act solely as substitutes for mono- or para-substituted benzene rings. This is due to the difficulty of accessing 1,3- and 1,2-disubstituted cubane precursors. The adoption of cubane in drug design has been further hindered by the incompatibility of cross-coupling reactions with the cubane scaffold, owing to a competing metal-catalyzed valence isomerization. Herein, we disclose expedient routes to 1,3- and 1,2-disubstituted cubane building blocks using a convenient cyclobutadiene precursor and a photolytic C–H carboxylation reaction, respectively. Moreover, we leverage the slow oxidative addition and rapid reductive elimination of copper to develop C–N, C–C(sp3), C–C(sp2), and C–CF3 cross-coupling protocols. Our research enables facile elaboration of all cubane isomers into drug candidates thus enabling ideal bioisosteric replacement of ortho-, meta-, and para-substituted benzenes.


Photoredox Catalysis
Copper Catalysis

Supplementary materials

Supplementary Information
Materials and Methods, Procedures and Characterization Data, NMR Spectra


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