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© 2019 Elsevier Ltd The key step in our synthetic strategy towards (S,S)-methylphenidate hydrochloride employs the ring-opening of an in situ formed aziridinium intermediate. Treatment of an α-hydroxy-β-amino ester with methanesulfonic anhydride promoted aziridinium formation and the subsequent addition of phenylmagnesium bromide resulted in stereospecific and regioselective ring-opening to give the corresponding α-phenyl-β-amino ester with overall retention of configuration. Subsequent functional group manipulation followed by N-deprotection and cyclisation generated the piperidine ring within the target compound, and transesterification gave (S,S)-methylphenidate hydrochloride, in only 8 steps from 1,5-pentanediol, in 15% overall yield. These results demonstrate the synthetic utility of enantiopure aziridinium intermediates as substrates for the generation of stereodefined C–C bonds, and crucially this methodology provides access to α-substituted-β-amino ester substrates that are not accessible via enolate alkylation chemistry. The strategy reported herein is potentially applicable to all possible stereoisomers of methylphenidate as well as differentially substituted analogues.

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