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Science. 2019 Jan 11;363(6423). pii: eaav2211. doi: 10.1126/science.aav2211. Epub 2018 Nov 29.

Organic synthesis in a modular robotic system driven by a chemical programming language.

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School of Chemistry, The University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK.
School of Computer Science, The University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK.
School of Chemistry, The University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK.


The synthesis of complex organic compounds is largely a manual process that is often incompletely documented. To address these shortcomings, we developed an abstraction that maps commonly reported methodological instructions into discrete steps amenable to automation. These unit operations were implemented in a modular robotic platform by using a chemical programming language that formalizes and controls the assembly of the molecules. We validated the concept by directing the automated system to synthesize three pharmaceutical compounds, diphenhydramine hydrochloride, rufinamide, and sildenafil, without any human intervention. Yields and purities of products and intermediates were comparable to or better than those achieved manually. The syntheses are captured as digital code that can be published, versioned, and transferred flexibly between platforms with no modification, thereby greatly enhancing reproducibility and reliable access to complex molecules.


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