Digitalization of Chemistry
Prof Lee Cronin has featured on the Thomson Reuters “State of Innovation” website, where he discusses 3D-printing medicine and the development of the “chemical internet”.
The vision is to develop cheap, universal, and accessible chemical robots that will allow the Design, Discovery and Digitization of Chemical Space. One of the things that made the internet possible was that html, the standard language to create web pages, was very cheap and easy. In the same way, the Cronin Group is focused on developing cheap and easy-to-use robots that can do chemistry. “If the robots are too complicated they will fail and no one will use them,” Cronin pointed out.
The digitalization of the chemical space may represent a major change in the discovery process in chemistry. In the future, it might be possible to develop an application for a robot to create a molecule and do design according to a specification. Once a discovery is made, the coordinates of the new molecule in the chemical space could be stored as a code, making reproducibility cheap and easy, and hence changing the manufacturing process as we know it. The code could be used again and again. The potential of this system in the pharmaceutical industry is massive. Complicated drug manufacturing processes could be simplified and done at once. Drug discovery and formulation is a very complex process that demands a significant investment in effort, time and money. By using inexpensive robotics and improving reproducibility, the cost of either drug discovery, formulation or manufacture could be greatly reduced.