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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/P007589/1
Title: Dial-a-Molecule Grand Challenge Network, Phase III
Principal Investigator: Whitby, Professor RJ
Other Investigators:
Hii, Professor KK(
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Sch of Chemistry
Organisation: University of Southampton
Scheme: Network
Starts: 01 October 2016 Ends: 31 March 2020 Value (£): 254,038
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Chemical Synthetic Methodology Design of Process systems
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Chemicals Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
21 Jul 2016 EPSRC Physical Sciences Chemistry - July 2016 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Designed molecules are the basis of much of modern life, for example as pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, plastics, liquid crystals, electronic materials etc). The task of discovering new molecules with desired properties is constrained by the time it takes to make them leading to compromises. For example in pharmaceuticals when the need to use simple, easy to make compounds leads to cross-activity (interaction with other than the target biological system) as the compromise, and hence undesirable side effects.

The aim of 'Dial-a-Molecule' is to make the synthesis of any desired molecule as quick as ordering an existing chemical from your supplier. A linked aim is to make production of chemicals more efficient with lower energy usage and less waste.

The Dial-a-Molecule Network was established as one of three 'Grand Challenges' for Physical Sciences by EPSRC in 2010 with the aim that "In 20-40 years, scientists will be able to deliver any desired molecule within a timeframe useful to the end-user, using safe, economically viable and sustainable processes." In its first phase it produced a roadmap (www.dial-a-molecule.com) to describe the advances needed to achieve the Grand Challenge. Strong collaborations with and input from other disciplines, such as mathematics, engineering, computer science, data science, and biology, is an essential component to realizing the aims of Dial-a-Molecule and in the second phase it progressed in building the multi-disciplinary community needed to tackle the challenge. It also started to promote a fundamental change in the way that synthetic chemistry is undertaken towards becoming a more data-centric discipline, embracing the data revolution and advances in computing power and technology that has occurred over the last 10 years.

The current grant application seeks funding to extend the network for a 3 year period, with clear plans to be self-sustaining in some form at the end. Although the overall objectives remain unchanged, plans for Phase III of the network will focus on delivering impact in in six key themes covering changing way synthesis is carried out with a particular emphasis on data capture and use, developing new ways of carrying out and studying reactions with an emphasis on automation, inventing new reactions with a potentially transformative effect on the challenge, and establishing a UK infrastructure and profile in the area. The network will continue to promote inter-disciplinary mobility, and will put a strong emphasis on supporting Early Career Researchers. The network has been particularly successful in industrial engagement; this will be further developed through initiatives such as the Synthesis College and SME networks.

The network will organize a large number of open meetings aimed at bringing together different disciplines to discuss specific topics, identify opportunities, and establish new collaborations to seek funding. It will also directly facilitate applications for funding in the area by supporting meetings to refine ideas and consortia, supporting visits between partners, and funding small proof of concept projects. It will provide training in important areas, and facilitate the introduction of new techniques (software and automation) to help equip the next generation of researchers with necessary skills. The Network has the funding of three 'headline' projects as specific aims in phase III - a 'Dial-a-Molecule' Grand Challenge Institute to provide a national focus and critical mass of people and equipment; a national collection of catalysts and ligands; and a demonstration 'Dial-a-molecule' machine.

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.soton.ac.uk