Scientists have developed a new method to produce drug molecules, which they say uses downloadable blueprints to easily and reliably synthesise organic chemicals via a programmable ‘chemputer’. Researchers from the University of Glasgow in the UK said the method could democratise the pharmaceutical industry.
Published in the journal Science, the research shows for the first time how synthesis of important drug molecules can be achieved in an affordable and modular chemical-robot system they call a chemputer. While recent advances in chemical production have allowed some chemical compounds to be produced at laboratory scale via automated systems, the chemputer is underpinned by a new universal and interoperable standard for writing and sharing chemical recipes. The key was to develop a general abstraction for chemistry that can be made universal, practical, and driven by a computer programme, researchers said.
Those chemical recipes, run on a computer programme the team calls the ‘chempiler’, instruct the chemputer how to produce molecules on-demand, more affordably and safely than ever possible before, they said. The researchers claim the ability to use a universal code will allow chemists all round the world to convert their recipe into a digital code. This will allow others to share and download recipes similar in a similar way to music is today on iTunes or Spotify, they said.
“This approach is a key step in the digitisation of chemistry, and will allow the universal assembly of complex molecules on demand, democratising the ability to discover and make new molecules using a simple software app and a modular chemputer,” said Professor Lee Cronin from the University of Glasgow. “Making recipes for drugs available online, and synthesisable via a compact chemputer system, could allow medical professionals in remote parts of the world to create life-saving drugs as and when they are required,” Cronin said.
The potential applications are enormous, and we’re very excited to be leading on this revolutionary new approach to organic chemistry, researchers said.