Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

Process for Arene Fluorination

Technology #5389

Radionucleotides in oncology diagnostics

Radiopharmaceuticals are commonly used in medical imaging; in particular, radioactive glucose labeled with 18F (18F-FDG) can be used to directly locate areas of the body where there are rapidly growing malignant tumors. These tumors metabolize glucose far more quickly than normal cells, resulting in a collection of radioactively labeled glucose that can then be seen using positron emission tomography (PET) scans. The half-life of 18F is on the order of 2 hours, which means that hospitals must be in the near vicinity of a cyclotron that is capable of producing the isotope. Moreover, additional chemical synthesis steps are required to join the 18F to a glucose molecule. This means that transport and chemistry must occur either on-site (which is prohibitively expensive and inaccessible), patient’s PET scheduling must be timed carefully, and the entire process has to happen quickly. Current synthetic methods to produce 18F-FDG include electrophilic fluorination and nucleophilic fluorination using mannose triflate as a precursor. An increase in the yield and selectivity of the procedure will aid in decreasing the overall cost of the diagnosis procedure, allowing a greater number of patients in need to access this technology.

High yield catalytic production of fluoroarenes

A type of catalyst that is copper-based has been found to enhance the yield and selectivity of a reaction that produces fluoroarenes. This catalyst reduces the problem of getting the radioactive fluorene isotope to attach to electron rich substrates, resulting in a process with 20:1 selectivity as compared to a 1:1 selectivity as seen in state-of-the-art synthetic methods. Such an exponential increase in the efficiency of the production of fluoroarenes would be beneficial in tapping into the billion-dollar radiopharmaceutical market in the United States.

Applications and Advantages


  • New materials for medical imaging (PET scans)
  • Cancer diagnosis and staging


  • Increased selectivity of fluoroarene production
  • Ambient light aids in catalysis