Latest CLASSY publications: new results on catalysis and oligomerisation

Our CLASSY team is making progress towards its aim of emulating living cells in their capacity to self-regulate and catalyse multistep processes. The latest results are out, this time from the CLASSY members in the Wennemers Group at ETH Zurich.

Our results provide basic insights into the principles of catalysis and oligomerization which are key processes for the evolution of life. They are the first step in creating molecular assembly lines for the construction of complex molecules from simple individual components – a goal at the heart of CLASSY.

Published in Nature Synthesis, under the lead of Dr. Bartosz Lewandowski, the study titled Catalytic length-controlled oligomerization with synthetic programmable templates provides insights into the principles of catalysis and oligomerization. These represent a first step in creating molecular assembly lines for the construction of complex molecules from simple components, as says Dr. Bartosz Lewandowski.

Molecular templates allow to assemble a precise number of molecules into an oligomeric product of specific length. Nature uses this strategy, for example, to prepare RNA using a DNA strand as a template. Inspired by nature, chemists have also been able to make oligomers with length control in the laboratory using synthetic, man-made templates. However, a common limitation of this approach is that an equivalent amount of the template with respect to the product formed needs to be used. Lewandowski and colleagues created the first example of catalytic templates for length-controlled oligomer synthesis. Only 10 mol% of the template suffices to achieve complete conversion of a small molecule starting material, predominantly to a single product of specific length.

Read all about the study in: Lewandowski, B.M., Schmid, D., Borrmann, R., Zetschok, D., Schnurr, M., Wennemers, H. Catalytic length-controlled oligomerization with synthetic programmable templates. Nat. Synth., 2023, DOI:

What I really enjoyed during this project is how we build on the detailed knowledge of our peptide catalysts to develop a novel transformation which gives access to versatile building blocks.

As part of her Doctoral Research, Alena Budinská has been working on the organocatalytic synthesis of triflones. Published in the Angewandte Chemie International Edition, her work titled Organocatalytic Synthesis of Triflones Bearing Two Non-Adjacent Stereogenic Centers builds on the Wennemers Group’s detailed knowledge of peptide catalysts. The publication was highlighted in the latest issue of Synfacts (a journal that publishes highlights of the most significant current research written by experts in the field) and was among the most accessed in Angewandte Chemie in March 2023.

Trifluoromethylsulfones, also referred to as triflones, are useful compounds for their properties and reactivity. However, there are not many ways to make chiral triflones. This study presents a new organocatalytic method for the stereoselective synthesis of chiral triflones using α-aryl vinyl triflones, building blocks previously unexplored in asymmetric synthesis. Budinská’s work shows that the peptide catalyst gives access to a broad range of products in high yields and stereoselectivities under mild reaction conditions. The products can be easily transformed into various heterocycles, which are common motives in bioactive molecules, thus making these results relevant for the creation of new medicinal products and other substances.

Read the full study in: Alena Budinská and Helma Wennemers. Organocatalytic Synthesis of Triflones Bearing Two Non-Adjacent Stereogenic Centers. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2023, e202300537, DOI:

Curious to learn more about the other results of the CLASSY project? Visit our Results page to learn more and follow @CLASSY_H2020 to stay tuned on the upcoming project updates.

How can we communicate about our research? A training session for CLASSY’s early-career researchers

On Friday 24 March, the early-career researchers involved in the CLASSY and CORENET projects had the opportunity to explore the basics of science communication and how to transform scientific information into engaging narratives. The accelopment team, who are partners in both projects, shared some of their expertise as communications leads in EU-funded projects through a two-hour training session on science communication.

The online training module was organised for both the CLASSY and CORENET projects to build upon their synergies in terms of team members and research topics. Both led by the Biohybrid Materials and Systems Chemistry Research group of Prof. Andres de la Escosura (UAM), involving the collaboration with Prof. Wilhelm Huck’s group (RU) and accelopment in the lead of their communication, dissemination and exploitation activities, they are highly innovative projects pushing beyond the state of the art in chemical sciences and funded under the EIC and FET-Open programmes, respectively. As the accelopment team has been developing its Transferable Skills Training Programme specifically designed for early-career researchers, it was now a great opportunity to bring together the two projects and help enhance the promotion of their research.

Customised to the participants’ interests and needs, the session focused on translating complex concepts into accessible information for diverse audiences. Starting from the basics of good science communication, the interactive session included tips for writing news pieces, practical examples of how to create appealing videos and some brushstrokes on social media, guiding the participants on how to start introducing themselves and their research to the community. As just a first peak into the broad world of science communication, the session aimed to expand the PhD students and Postdoc’s communication skillset, to hopefully benefit them throughout their current research projects and future careers.

Communicating science to a broad range of audiences is a valuable skill that is becoming more and more important for ESRs, especially in the digital age with the increase of digital communication channels and platforms. So now is the time to go for new communication actions to showcase the latest advances in the field of chemical sciences and increase the network of the early-career researchers involved in both projects.

Follow @CLASSY_H2020 to stay tuned on the upcoming project updates and to see the first outcomes of the training session.

Latest CLASSY publications to kick-off 2022

Did you miss the last publications from the CLASSY consortium? Find an overview of all 2021 publications below, including the latest contribution from the group of Prof. Wolfgang Kroutil at UG now included in the January 2022 issue of Chemical Reviews.

Anil Kumar Bandela, Nathaniel Wagner, Hava Sadihov, Sara Morales-Reina, Agata Chotera-Ouda, Kingshuk Basu, Rivka Cohen-Luria, Andrés de la Escosura, Gonen Ashkenasy. Primitive selection of the fittest emerging through functional synergy in nucleopeptide networks. PNAS. 2021, 118

Michael Teders, Aleksandr A. Pogodaev, Glenn Bojanov, Wilhelm T. S. Huck. Reversible Photoswitchable Inhibitors Generate Ultrasensitivity in Out-Of-Equilibrium Enzymatic Reactions. JACS. 2021, 143 (15), 5709–5716; DOI: 10.1021/jacs.0c12956

Christoph Winkler, Stefan Simić, Valentina Jurkaš, Sarah Bierbaumer, Luca Schmermund, Silvan Poschenrieder, Sarah A. Berger, Elisa Kulterer, Robert Kourist, and Wolfgang Kroutil. Accelerated Reaction Engineering of Photo(bio)catalytic Reactions through Parallelization with an Open-Source Photoreactor. ChemPhotoChem 2021, 05, DOI: 10.1002/cptc.202100109

Helma Wennemers, Leo D. M. Nicholls. Synergistic Peptide and Gold Catalysis: Enantioselective Addition of Branched Aldehydes to Allenamides. Chem. Eur. J. 2021, 03, DOI: 10.1002/chem.202103197

Stefan Simić, Erna Zukić, Luca Schmermund, Kurt Faber, Christoph K. Winkler, and Wolfgang Kroutil. Shortening Synthetic Routes to Small Molecule Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients Employing Biocatalytic Methods. Chem. Rev. 2022, 122, 1, 1052-1126, DOI: 10.1021/acs.chemrev.1c00574


CLASSY featured in the EU GrantsAccess Science Stories

CLASSY was featured in the EU GrantsAccess Science Stories issue last July, 2021. Prof. Helma Wennemers and PhD candidate Jasper Möhler (ETH), explain the role of their team within the CLASSY project and their contribution in terms of peptide expertise.

If you’re curious to hear about their progress in the lab, how they’re collaborating with the other CLASSY partners and what the next steps are in the project, read the full interview “Increased sustainability through combinational chemistry” (in English) and watch the accompanying video (in German).

CLASSY PhD student awarded Scholarship Fund of the Swiss Chemical Industry (SSCI)

PhD student Alena Budinska was recently awarded a scholarship that supports her research on ”Stereoselective Organocatalytic α-​Alkylation of Aldehydes’’ as part of Prof. Helma Wennemers group at ETH Zürich, and through which she contributes to the CLASSY project. The Scholarship Fund of the Swiss Chemical Industry (SSCI) is a joint initiative of ETH Zürich with Janssen AG, Clariant International AG and Givaudan Schweiz AG. It is annually awarded to outstanding doctoral students from the Department of Chemistry and Applied Sciences at ETH.

Our warmest congratulations to Alena for this recognition of top-notch research.

New CLASSY publication in PNAS

Exciting news from Andrés de la Escosura’s team at UAM and Gonen Ashkenasy’s team at BGU: their first CLASSY results have just been published in PNAS. Getting one step further towards understanding the processes at the origin of life, the published results reveal a successful attempt at replicating simple nucleopeptide chimeras. The authors identified mechanisms of selective replication processes that may be realted to those that led to the emergence of biological assemblies, such as ribosomes and viruses. Read all about their findings in: Anil Kumar Bandela, Nathaniel Wagner, Hava Sadihov, Sara Morales-Reina, Agata Chotera-Ouda, Kingshuk Basu, Rivka Cohen-Luria, Andrés de la Escosura, Gonen Ashkenasy. Primitive selection of the fittest emerging through functional synergy in nucleopeptide networks. PNAS. 2021, 118

First CLASSY review meeting successfully held online

The COVID-19 pandemic has been affecting the work of our CLASSY partners throughout the year, with periods of complete lab closures or limited access to analytical facilities. Nonetheless, most research progress is well on track and a successful review meeting was held online today with the REA Project Officer and external expert reviewers. The meeting provided all partners with the opportunity to present their latest results and engage in fruitful scientific discussions.  Thanks to the helpful recommendations and advice received from the Project Officer and external expert reviewers, we are now even more motivated for the next steps of this exciting project. Stay tuned, we look forward to sharing more research updates with you soon.

New CLASSY conference presentations

Our partners are making the most of the virtual conference opportunities, with several posters already presented earlier this year and more to come in the next weeks and months. Find all of the latest CLASSY results on our dedicated page, here.

First CLASSY publication is out

We are happy to announce that after just about half a year from the project start, the first results of the CLASSY project are now available from the Wennemers team at ETH. Read all about the latest developments in organocatalysis in: Jasper S. Möhler, Tobias Schnitzer, Helma Wennemers. Amine Catalysis with Substrates Bearing N-Heterocyclic Moieties Enabled by Control over the Enamine Pyramidalization Direction. Chem. Eur. J. 2020, 26, 15623 –15628 DOI: 10.1002/chem.202002966

CLASSY: what does the origin of life have to do with modern industry?

​Where, how and when did life originate? Or, more simply put, Where do we come from? Molecular synthesis, the series of reaction processes needed to build the simplest components of life, is at the basis of life itself. Yet, we still don’t know what type of reactions were responsible for the genesis of life’s first building blocks. Molecular synthesis is also at the foundation of many industrial sectors, from drug development in the pharmaceutical industry, agricultural and household product development in the chemical industry, aroma and scent creation in the food and perfume industries to many more. Yet state-of-the-art molecular synthesis used in today’s industries is unsustainable, as it requires many intermediate reaction steps, each producing vast amounts of waste products (e.g., 25-100 kg of waste for each kg of product for pharmaceutical drugs). Living cells can synthesize an enormous variety of complex products in a single ‘cell reactor’, overcoming the need for many intermediate steps.

An international, multidisciplinary consortium of researchers has set out to create, within the framework of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme, a new type of chemical reactor for molecular synthesis that mimics living cells. During the 4-year CLASSY project the team of researchers from five European countries aims to revolutionise molecular synthesis and develop a unique chemical reactor able to combine multiple biocatalysis, carrying out compartmentalized and programmable reactions in a similar way as living cells do, limiting the amount of waste generated. Achieving this will not only require high-tech microfluidic compartments and programmable reactions, but also significant developments in the fundamental understanding of molecular synthesis. Thus, CLASSY will bring benefits to modern industrial procedures, by developing a new technology that will constitute an important leap towards a limited-waste, sustainable, green factory of the future, alongside contributing significant advances in basic knowledge on the dynamics of molecular synthesis, likely to have exciting implications for furthering our understanding of the origin of life.

“The vision of having a dynamic cell-like system sounds almost like science fiction, but definitely something to strive for. Having an inspiring goal motivates our work and this end goal should be enough motivation to get the project going.” says a researcher from the CLASSY project. With this ambition and the enthusiasm to become game-changers in chemical synthesis, 18 members from the multidisciplinary consortium kicked off the CLASSY project on November 12-13th 2019 at ETH Zürich, Switzerland. The EU has committed 3.08 m euro in funding to the project’s budget.

Besides four leading research groups with expertise in systems chemistry, biocatalysis and microfluidics, the team also includes two companies specialized in microfluidic technology and project management, communication, dissemination and exploitation.

Project Partners:

  • Biohybrid Materials and Systems Chemistry Group, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, ES (coordinator)
  • accelopment AG, CH
  • Laboratory for Systems Chemistry, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, IL
  • Laboratory of Organic Chemistry and Chemical Biology, ETH Zürich, CH
  • Physical-Organic Chemistry Research Group, Radboud University Nijmegen, NL
  • Organic and Bioinorganic Chemistry Group, Universität Graz, AT
  • Micronit Microtechnologies B.V., NL
CLASSY team participants at the kick-off meeting in November 2019 at ETH Zürich.