University of Illinois' Molecule Maker Set to Revolutionize Chemistry

By Peter R - 14 Mar '15 09:47AM

Scientists have developed a new machine that promises to accelerate the pace of chemical and biological sciences.

The machine, akin to a 3 D printer, can build small molecules from scratch. According to Tech Times, synthesis of molecules is among the biggest roadblocks to drug discovery and other important biochemical procedures. Building a molecule could take years and hence is a deterrent for most organizations. The new machine developed at University of Illinois promises to change all that.

"Up to now, the bottleneck has been synthesis. There are many areas where progress is being slowed, and many molecules that pharmaceutical companies aren't even working on, because the barrier to synthesis is so high," said researcher Martin D. Burke, in a news release.

"We wanted to take a very complex process, chemical synthesis, and make it simple. Simplicity enables automation, which, in turn, can broadly enable discovery and bring the substantial power of making molecules to nonspecialists," he added.

The machine developed by Burke and his team works by stitching together molecular building blocks. The team says that though the building blocks are different, a single chemical reaction can be used to put them together. This means the process can be automated in a straightforward manner.

The team has demonstrated the machine's function by building 14 different classes of molecules. It hopes the machine will propel several advances which were stalled at the molecular synthesis stage.

The study has been featured in the journal Science.

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