Chemists designing new compounds have to do a lot of simulating and predicting before a new molecule is developed. This is a slow and meticulous process, but now a new machine developed at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign is able to synthesize small molecules completely automatically. In effect, it allows chemists to draw a new molecule and have the machine put it together without any assistance.
The machine works by bringing together multiple pre-made molecular blocks that can predictably snap together. Blocks are delivered one at a time using a mechanism that washes away any excess reagents before the next step is taken. This has already led to the development of more than a dozen different classes of drugs and the potential exists for making many thousands more.
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