The Medicinal Chemistry in the Era of Machines and Automation: Recent Advances in Continuous Flow Technology

J Med Chem. 2020 Jul 9;63(13):6624-6647. doi: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.9b01956. Epub 2020 Feb 21.


Medicinal chemistry plays a fundamental and underlying role in chemical biology, pharmacology, and medicine to discover safe and efficacious drugs. Small molecule medicinal chemistry relies on iterative learning cycles composed of compound design, synthesis, testing, and data analysis to provide new chemical probes and lead compounds for novel and druggable targets. Using traditional approaches, the time from hypothesis to obtaining the results can be protracted, thus limiting the number of compounds that can be advanced into clinical studies. This challenge can be tackled with the recourse of enabling technologies that are showing great potential in improving the drug discovery process. In this Perspective, we highlight recent developments toward innovative medicinal chemistry strategies based on continuous flow systems coupled with automation and bioassays. After a discussion of the aims and concepts, we describe equipment and representative examples of automated flow systems and end-to-end prototypes realized to expedite medicinal chemistry discovery cycles.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Automation
  • Chemistry, Pharmaceutical / methods*
  • Drug Discovery / methods*
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Humans