Focus Area Definition
Conceivably, if we had enough reactions with close to 100% robustness and efficiency (Click reactions), we could sequence them to make most complex molecule of our choosing. The length of the synthetic route would be relatively unimportant. We are a long way from realising this ambition, as illustrated by the term click coming to refer to a specific reaction.
In essence, we need to emulate the success of peptide and nucleic acids synthesis for ‘non-polymeric’ molecular structures. Implicit in this approach is that such reactions should be clean with the aspiration of zero waste or, at worst, facile recycling of minimal waste. Achievement of this fundamental goal will greatly ease sequencing of reactions during a synthesis and facilitate automation. Low purification requirements will allow processes to run 24/7, with intermediates in a synthetic sequence passing directly from one processing phase to the next. Thus, a second strand of this focus area is to develop automation. It will demand significant synergy with Lab of the Future.
Challenges and Goals
The major challenges were defined as
- Define ‘perfection’ and identify the reactions inventory
- A chemical inventory of perfect reactions that deal with complexity
- Reagentless synthesis
The challenges, current state-of-the-art, goals and pathways to achieving these goals are summarised in the roadmap below.
Significance to End Users
The ability to chemically synthesise any molecule would remove major bottlenecks in medicine, agrochemistry, opto- and molecular electronics, defence, sensor technology, etc. It would facilitate rapid mapping of chemical space, bringing personalised healthcare within the realms of possibility. The efficiencies demanded will reduce chemical waste and ensure sustainability, while the ability to go from mg to tonnes without issue will shorten the time from R&D to market considerably.