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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S024107/1
Title: EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Technology Enhanced Chemical Synthesis
Principal Investigator: Clayden, Professor J
Other Investigators:
Aggarwal, Professor VK
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Astex Therapeutics AstraZeneca Bayer AG
Charles River Laboratories Chemspeed Technologies AG Concept Life Sciences
Dr Reddy's Laboratories UK Ltd ELI Lilly and Company GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK)
Heptares Therapeutics Limited J-Konsult ltd Merck KGaA
Merck Sharpe and Dohme Ltd (MSD) SK Biotek Ireland Syngenta
Tocris Bioscience UCB Ziylo
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: University of Bristol
Scheme: Centre for Doctoral Training
Starts: 01 October 2019 Ends: 31 March 2028 Value (£): 6,639,840
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biological & Medicinal Chem. Catalysis & Applied Catalysis
Chemical Synthetic Methodology Electrochemical Science & Eng.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Chemicals Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
07 Nov 2018 EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training Interview Panel K – November 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Synthesis, the science of making molecules, is central to human wellbeing through its ability to produce new molecules for use as medicines and materials. Every new drug, whether an antibiotic or a cancer treatment, is based on a molecular structure designed and built using the techniques of synthesis. Synthesis is a complex activity, in which bonds between atoms are formed in a carefully choreographed way, and training to a doctoral level is needed to produce scientists with this expertise. Our proposed CDT is tailored towards training the highly creative, technologically skilled scientists essential to the pharmaceutical, biotech, agrochemical and materials sectors, and to many related areas of science which depend on novel molecules.

Irrespective of the ingenuity of the synthetic chemist, synthesis is often the limiting step in the development of a new product or the advance of new molecular science. This hurdle has been overcome in some areas by automation (e.g. peptides and DNA), but the operational complexity of a typical synthetic route in, say, medicinal chemistry has hampered the wider use of the technology. Recent developments in the fields of automation, machine learning (ML), virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) now make possible a fundamental change in the way molecules are designed and made, and we propose in this CDT to engineer a revolution in the way that newly trained researchers approach synthetic chemistry, creating a new generation of pioneering innovators. Making use of Bristol's extensive array of automated synthetic equipment, flow reactors, peptide synthesisers, and ML Retrosynthesis Tool, students will learn and appreciate this cutting-edge technology-driven program, its potential and its limitations.

Bristol has outstanding facilities, equipment and expertise to deliver this training. At its core will be a state-of-the-art research experience in our world-leading research groups, which will form the majority of the 4-year CDT training period. For the 8 months prior to choosing their project, students with complete a unique, multifaceted Technology & Automation Training Experience (TATE). They will gain hands-on experience in advanced techniques in synthesis, automation, modelling and virtual reality. In conjunction with our Dynamic Laboratory Manual (DLM), the students will also expand their experience and confidence with interactive, virtual versions of essential experimental techniques, using simulations, videos, tutorials and quizzes to allow them to learn from mistakes quickly, effectively and safely before entering the lab. In parallel, they will develop their teamworking, leadership and thinking skills through brainstorming and problemsolving sessions, some of them led by our industrial partners. Brainstorming involves the students generating ideas on outline proposals which they then present to the project leaders in a lively and engaging interactive feedback session, which invariably sees new and student-driven ideas emerge. By allowing students to become fully engaged with the projects and staff, brainstorming ensures that students take ownership of a PhD proposal from the start and develop early on a creative and collaborative atmosphere towards problem solving. TATE also provides a formal assessment mechanism, allow the students to make a fully informed choice of PhD project, and engages them in the use of the key innovative techniques of automation, machine learning and virtual reality that they will build on during their projects.

We will integrate into our CDT direct interaction and training from entrepreneurs who themselves have taken scientific ideas from the lab into the market. By combining our expertise in synthesis training with new training platforms in automation, ML/AI/VR and entrepreneurship this new CDT will produce graduates better able to navigate the fast-changing chemical landscape.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.bris.ac.uk