US researchers have demonstrated a small-complex metal catalyst that acts like a multifunctional enzyme mimic. The new catalyst can oxidize specific C-H bonds on many different targets. This will greatly streamline the process of modifying known molecules in new ways, a key part of drug discovery, says Christina White of the University of Illinois. The new catalyst, iron CF3-PDP, can accomplish in half an hour chemical transformations that would otherwise take months. The approach to designing this novel catalyst could be applicable to other catalysts for C-H activation, the team reports in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.