26 October - 27 October 2020

Automated Intelligent Chemistry

Organised by:

SCI’s Young Chemists’ panel

Online Webinar - 13:00-16:10 (GMT)

Registration Closed

This event is no longer available for registration.

Automation is a growing field of chemistry, both within industry and academia. Enabling technologies allow synthesis, purification, and testing of organic compounds to be performed not only much faster, but on a smaller scale and with far greater efficiency than traditional methods. For many companies, the dream of closed-loop workflow cycles from compound design to testing and statistical analysis, followed by improvements to the compound design and further testing, are now being realized. Novel robotics for solid and liquid dispensing, flow chemistry, reaction monitoring, physical manipulation, and compound purification are continually being developed. Industrial chemists are increasingly exposed to new automation, whether in the form of high-throughput screening of compounds against targets (or targets against compounds), in reaction optimization for process or medicinal chemistry, or in measurement of physicochemical parameters such as drug solubility. 

This symposium brings together leading researchers in this field for an exciting day of talks, posters and discussion. The event is focussed on all kinds of automation in chemistry, including parallel synthesis for medicinal chemistry, high-throughput chemistry, cheminformatics, and physical property measurements. Prof Lee Cronin (Glasgow University) and Prof Alexei Lapkin (Cambridge University) are our plenary speakers, alongside some shorter talks from a mixture of academics and industrial speakers from a variety of lines of work, developing or using automation. Researchers from all levels and backgrounds interested in Automated and Intelligent chemistry are encouraged to attend. 


This meeting brings together experts from both industry and academics/students at all levels, interested in developing or using automation within organic and medicinal chemistry

Automation chemists, high-throughput experimentation chemists
Chemists in pharmaceutical/agrochemical industries, who either use automation themselves or work alongside those that do
Relevant to PhD students and postdocs who are either currently using automation in their work, would like to use it in the future, or intend on moving into the pharmaceutical/agrochemical industries
Chemists interested in artificial intelligence and cheminformatics and its application to synthesis.  


Prof Alexei Lapkin

University of Cambridge

Graduated with MChem from Novosibirsk State University in 1994 and worked for 3.5 years at Boreskov Institute of Catalysis.
(1997-2000) Research Assistant / PhD at University of Bath and since then been an academic at Bath (2000-09), Warwick (2009-2013) and from 2013 Professor of Sustainable Reaction Engineering at Cambridge.

Dr Becky Greenaway

Imperial College London

Becky is currently a Royal Society University Research Fellow at Imperial College London. Prior to this, she carried out her PhD at the University of Oxford in organic synthesis with Prof Ed Anderson, before moving to Liverpool to carry out her postdoctoral research with Prof Andy Cooper. Her research interests include high-throughput automation for the synthesis of molecular organic materials and supramolecular assemblies, as well as porous liquids.

Prof Lee Cronin

University of Glasgow

Leroy (Lee) Cronin FRSE is the Regius Professor of Chemistry in Glasgow. Since the age of 9 Lee has wanted to explore chemistry using electronics to control matter, understand the origin of life, and generally confuse people with ideas that may or may not make sense one day. He strives to use his imagination to create new ideas that might tell us something about the universe, after all, the imagination is housed in a chemical brain and thus does exist. His research has four main aims 1) the construction of an artificial life form / work out how inorganic chemistry transitioned to biology / searching for new life forms; 2) the digitization of chemistry; and 3) the use of artificial intelligence in chemistry including the construction of ‘wet’ chemical computers; 4) The exploration of complexity and information in chemistry. He runs a team of around 60 people funded by grants from the UK EPSRC, US DARPA, Templeton, Google, BAe, JM. Finally, Lee likes to run a transparent and progressive group. Lee does not like hierarchy but likes organisation and well-defined actions. He likes to mentor researchers using a problem-based approach to solving big ideas. Nothing is impossible until it is tried.

Dr Luigi Da Via


Luigi Da Via leads the UK high throughput team in the CMC Analytical department at GSK.
He has a PhD in Photochemistry and Catalysis at the University of Liverpool (UK).
His current research involves the design, development, and deployment of new automated workflows for the screening of physicochemical properties of new assets during drug development

Dr Rachel Grainger

Astex Pharmaceuticals

Rachel Grainger obtained her MChem from University of Bath in 2010, before moving to Queen Mary University of London to complete her PhD on transition metal catalysis with Prof. Igor Larrosa. She spent two years working with Prof. Matthew Gaunt at the University of Cambridge as a postdoctoral researcher focussing on the development of nanoscale HTE for organic synthesis. In March 2017 she joined Astex Pharmaceuticals’ Sustaining Innovation Postdoctoral program where she established automated synthesis capabilities (HTE and flow) within the company. As of 2019, Rachel is a member of Astex’s Synthesis Technology Group, her role involves the development and implementation of cutting-edge technologies (robotic enabled HTE, photoredox, flow etc.) to enable synthetic challenges on live drug discovery projects.

Simon Yates

MChem from University of York including a year spent in Process Chemistry at Pfizer.
Joined AstraZeneca process chemistry in 2002 and worked on development projects scaling processes from lab to Kilo plant to pilot plant scale.
In 2006 moved into new area of automation and parallel synthesis.
Purchased and developed workflows on Symyx CM2 robot for metal scavenging and High Throughput Catalysis.
Purchased and developed Freeslate CM3 robot and adding in Medium Throughput, more data rich experiments to the workflows.
Most recently developed a robust manual workflow for organic solubility screening.
Alongside this I’ve been involved in ELN and data visualisation / reuse though my time at AZ.

Dr Matthew O'Brien

Keele University

Matt O'Brien graduated from York University and, after a spell working as a synthetic chemist at Zeneca pharmaceuticals, he obtained his PhD with Jim Thomas at Manchester University (total synthesis of bryostatins). A postdoc with Ian Paterson in Cambridge (total synthesis of discodermolide) was followed by a temporary lectureship at Trinity College dublin, where he developed a 1,9-asymmetric induction based on spiroketal relays. He returned to the UK to work in Steve Ley's lab in Cambridge where he completed a total synthesis of spongistatin 2 and invented a type of gas-liquid flow reactor based on Teflon AF-2400 membranes (tube-in-tube). He is now a senior lecturer at Keele University. His research interests include synthetic methodology, flow chemistry and the use of computer vision in chemical automation and analysis.


Monday 26 October

13:00 Opening remarks

13:10 Automation in Chemical Development at GSK,
          Dr Luigi da Via, GlaxoSmithKline

13:45 Sponsors flash talks

13:50 Some Applications of Open-source Technology in Flow Automation and Measurement
           Dr Matthew O’Brien, Keele University

14:25 Refreshment break

14:30 Enabling Fragment-based Drug Discovery (FBDD) with Automated Synthesis Technologies,
           Dr Rachel Grainger, Astex Pharmaceuticals

15:05 Sponsors flash talks

15:10 Plenary: DeepChem - An Artificial Intelligence that Discovers Unpredictable Chemical Reactions
          Prof Lee Cronin, University of Glasgow

16:10 Closing remarks


Tuesday 27 October

13:00 Welcome

13:05 Automated Solubility Measurement as a Foundation of Intelligent Chemistry
Dr Simon Yates, AstraZeneca

13:40 Sponsors flash talks

13:45 High-Throughput Approaches for the Discovery of Supramolecular Organic Materials
           Dr Becky Greenaway, Imperial College London


14:20 Refreshment break

14:25 Sponsors flash talks

14:30 Plenary: Reaction optimisation using Bayesian active learning
           Prof Alexei Lapkin, Cambridge University


15:20 Panel discussion with all the speakers  

16:10 Closing remarks


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Non-Members: £75.00
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SCI Members students: Free

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Organising Committee
  • Edward Balmond, SCI / BenevolentAI Cambridge
  • Nessa Carson, SCI / Syngenta 
  • Sam Dalton, SCI / Astex Pharmaceuticals
  • Alistair Boyer, SCI / University of Glasgow
Conference Team

Tel: +44 (0)20 7598 1561
Email: conferences@soci.org