Fly-by-Wire Chemistry

Published on June 22, 2017

Interview with Lee Cronin, University of Glasgow, UK,
recorded at the  BEILSTEIN OPEN SCIENCE SYMPOSIUM (22 – 24 May 2017).

Lee Cronin discusses digitizing chemistry with Carsten Kettner. Lee describes his ideas for digitizing the practical process of making molecules, by converting the synthesis information into a code which then can be used by other chemists or automated systems to playback the process and produce the molecule. By automating the parts of chemistry research that are repetitive and error prone we can free up time for researchers to allow them to be more creative and productive. Digitization will also enable chemists to make molecules that they currently are unable to make, give better reproducibility, speed up many processes and lead to more discoveries. Lee’s dream is to make complex molecules from a set of reactions using a small number of lines of synthetic code. This requires a programming approach to digitizing chemistry and will  enable reactions that were previously regarded as too messy, to become optimized by robots to work using “fly-by-wire” chemistry. In biology robots are routinely used, in chemistry this is more unusual. In Lee’s opinion this is due to various factors including: cultural, safety, affordability, and flexibility (chemists are more flexible than robots). To make the most of automation, chemists need to apply a more uniform approach to their work, but this apparent limitation will allow them to do more and enable them to exchange the practical process of making molecules more efficiently. Digitization will enable personalized medicine, allow the global access to medicines, drive customization and innovation, and help discover new molecules that may have profound importance.

Please have a look at our other videos with some speakers and their standpoints on Open Science:

Challenges for Scientific Databases
Frédérique Lisacek: Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, Geneva, Switzerland

The Open Source Chemistry Lab
Matthew Todd: The University of Sydney, Australia

Making Open Science Sustainable for Chemistry
Ian Bruno: Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre, Cambridge, UK

Transfer of Metadata from the Bench to Databases
Henry Rzepa: Imperial College London, UK

Uncertainties in Chemistry
Jeremy G. Frey: University of Southampton, UK

The European Open Science Cloud
Klaus Tochtermann: Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, Kiel, Germany

Libraries in Transformation
Leah McEwen:  Cornell University, Ithaca, USA

Discussion: Retro- and Prospectives on Open Science
Ian Bruno, Stuart Chalk, Martin Hicks, Carsten Kettner, Leah McEwen.

Open Access, Open Data, Open Science, Data Sharing and Big Data are examples of buzz words that are used to describe the new opportunities and demands for sharing and reusing the results of scientific research. This symposium brought together research scientists, data scientists, publishers, funders and other interested parties to review critically current publication practices in chemistry and related sciences.

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