Chemists designing new compounds have to do a lot of simulating and predicting before a new molecule is developed. This is a slow and meticulous process, but now a new machine developed at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign is able to synthesize small molecules completely automatically. In effect, it allows chemists to draw a new molecule and have the machine put it together without any assistance.
The machine works by bringing together multiple pre-made molecular blocks that can predictably snap together. Blocks are delivered one at a time using a mechanism that washes away any excess reagents before the next step is taken. This has already led to the development of more than a dozen different classes of drugs and the potential exists for making many thousands more.
Martin D. Burke, M.D., Ph.D, the lead scientist on the project, has recently started REVOLUTION Medicines, a company that will commercialize the technology. Here he is talking about the new molecule-making machine:
Here’s a snippet from the study abstract in Science:
Here we report the synthesis of 14 distinct classes of small molecules using the same fully automated process. This was achieved by strategically expanding the scope of a building block–based synthesis platform to include even Csp3-rich polycyclic natural product frameworks and discovering a catch-and-release chromatographic purification protocol applicable to all of the corresponding intermediates. With thousands of compatible building blocks already commercially available, many small molecules are now accessible with this platform.
Source: University of Illinois…