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Public portal, with recipes for building complex molecules, could fuel drug research

Boston University : 09 June, 2004  (Technical Article)
This new portal promises to change the way scientists share information on how to synthesize natural-product-like compounds important to new drug development and other advances in biomedical science.

Nearly 50 procedures for synthesizing complex molecules are part of the inaugural version of this “e-lab” resource ( Additional procedures, known as protocols, will be added as they are developed by the teams of researchers working with CMLD–BU scientists: John Porco and Scott Schaus, assistant professors of chemistry, and James Panek and John Snyder, professors of chemistry. The CMLD–BU is a one of four Centers of Excellence ( funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Part of BU’s Department of Chemistry, the mission of the CMLD–BU is to develop syntheses for complex compounds and to build libraries of the complex structures made by coupling these compounds.

“The CMLD program is focused on the development of methodologies for making diverse, high-quality chemical libraries that are needed for research on biological processes and even for drug discovery,” says John Schwab, the chemist at NIGMS who directs the initiative. “Clearly, the program will have the greatest impact if the results are made broadly available. We are delighted that the BU team has taken this philosophy to heart by providing web-based access to its innovative chemical methodologies.”

Partnering with the CMLD–BU researchers in this effort are the software engineers at Synthematix, Inc., a provider of chemistry reaction planning tools for synthetic chemists. The Arthur Suite Reaction Planner e-lab notebook allows CMLD–BU researchers to provide outside researchers access to CMLD–BU-developed protocols that can be used to synthesize new compounds. In addition, searches can be conducted using substructures, keywords, yields, or any of various physical and analytical properties associated with a given compound.

“The e-lab notebook could set a new paradigm among academics for the exchange of data,” says BU’s Schaus. “It shows what can be done beyond the publication format.”

For Synthematix, the collaboration also brings an important opportunity. “We are very excited to be working with some of the world’s leading chemists at Boston University,” says Robin Smith, Synthematix founder and chief scientific officer. “The technologies and methods being developed here will help shape the way chemical research and development is done in the future.”

Synthematix, Inc. (, is based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. The company provides software and informatics products to synthetic chemists, allowing them to build, access, and mine chemical databases with unprecedented power and flexibility.

Researchers at the CMLD–BU develop new methodologies to produce novel chemical libraries of complex molecules for biological screening. The Center’s goal is to expand the diversity of small molecule libraries by creating general, useful protocols for stereo-controlled synthesis and also provide molecules to researchers in the biomedical sciences. Scientists in BU’s Department of Chemistry investigate questions in theoretical chemistry, chemical physics, photochemistry, inorganic and organic chemistry, physical chemistry, and biochemistry.
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