blog  •  Dec 14

Lithium in Life Science

Lithium is becoming increasingly important in the world of life sciences, especially in the pharmaceutical sector. Doctors prescribe lithium compounds to treat certain mood disorders; chemists use them in drug development. These diverse compounds are inherently flexible, which helps create safer, more efficient chemical reactions and transformations.

Alcoholates - The Non-Nucleophilic Bases

An alcoholate, or alkoxide, is the conjugate base of an alcohol. Certain lithium alcoholates are non-nucleophilic, so they're often used as strong bases in organic synthesis. These sterically hindered bases help stabilize the reaction environment by eliminating electron transfer side reactions and reducing undesirable condensation.

Ascensus' lithium non-nucleophilic bases include:

  • LTB120 by Ascensus: This lithium tert-butoxide (C4H9LiO) solution is a strong base with high purity. It's useful for chemical reactions and targeted transformations, including selective cyclizations, selective rearrangements, and selective carboxylations. LTB120 is particularly effective in pharmaceutical carbamate synthesis due to its solubility in a wide range of solvents.
  • LiHMDS by Ascensus: Lithium hexamethyldisilazane (C6H19LiNSi2) is a strong non-nucleophilic base reagent for chemical synthesis. With its high selectivity and specificity, this reagent simplifies reactions and increases in-situ yield. Drug development applications include enolate reactions, aldol condensations, and ring formations. When used as a base for Dieckmann cyclizations, LiHMDS yields a large number of cyclic products for pharmaceutical intermediates.

Boranes - The Reducing Agents

Boranes are compounds that contain both boron and hydrogen. In the life sciences, chemists often use a subset of boranes called boron hydrides. Combined with lithium, these compounds have a powerful reducing effect — especially when used with solvents that increase reactivity, including methanol. This ability makes them a critical player in certain biological reactions.

Two reducing agents offered by Ascensus include:

  • Venpure LBH100 by Ascensus: LBH100 is a lithium borohydride (LiBH4) solution that acts as a strong, chemoselective reducing agent. It's extremely effective for reducing esters and is highly soluble in both ethers and tetrahydrofuran (THF). One research team used lithium borohydride in THF to reduce esters and synthesize (+)-2-butyl-3-hydroxypropionic acid. LiBH4 can also be used in the lithiation of 2H-WS2 to yield a large amount of exfoliated WS2.
  • Calselect LT (1.0M) by Ascensus: Lithium triethylborohydride (LiEt3BH), or superhydride, is a powerful hydride reagent that's used to reduce esters, ketones, amides, and epoxides. It can also be used in flow synthesis. CALSELECT LT performs well in the regioselective reduction of epoxides, resulting in high-yield synthesis.

Ascensus and Lithium-Based Compounds

Given the unique chemical properties of lithium, lithium-based compounds show great promise in the life sciences. Whether you're developing new drugs or conducting research, Ascensus' lithium-based products can help you improve safety, handling, efficiency, and throughput. To learn more, explore the full lineup of Ascensus products.

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