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CMST COST Action D16
Combinatorial Chemistry

B1: Main objective

The general aims for a proposed cost action are:

- Strengthening the competitiveness of Europe.

This can be achieved in several ways. First of all it is important to achieve a concert of efforts in "Combinatorial Chemistry". Since in Europe each country has its national research foundation, the EU can be extremely important in directing money for supranational activities and initiatives from which all member states can benefit. Duplications of efforts can be avoided. Europe does not have the advantage of the United States of a couple of large granting agencies, but to a certain extent the EU can assume this role.Second, starting a COST action will promote co-operation between both academic and industrial scientist of the member states. In the academics it is especially important to stimulate an inter-European exchange of post-docs. Almost by tradition, many of the best European post-docs spend a post-doctoral stay in the United States, whereas there are excellent places in Europe, too. We should strive to create more excellent places and avoid that new developments such as "Combinatorial Chemistry" take first place in the United States, thereby attracting European post-docs.

- Promote education in "Combinatorial Chemistry"

Education involves training in and exposure to "Combinatorial Chemistry". This can be very easily incorporated into already running established courses both lectures and laboratory courses. Various aspects of "Combinatorial Chemistry" and approaches can be discussed in a number of disciplines. As part of biochemistry the concepts of biodiversity can be treated, while organic chemistry will offer concept and strategies. Physical chemistry will provide backgrounds to sensors and materials.

Theoretical Chemistry will involve bio-informatics (also part of biochemistry) diversity analysis and pattern recognition. Inorganic chemistry plays a pivotal role in the introduction of catalysis concepts. Last but not least analytical chemistry is central in that virtually all assays and screening systems involve analytical chemistry aspects. Obvious anticipated problems regarding to spending time to

"Combinatorial Chemistry". at the expense of the existing disciplines can be circumvented or reduced by establishing temporary professorships to be granted to certain universities. The EU might play a facilitating role here.

- Convince scientists of various disciplines of the importance of and expose them to “Combinatorial Chemistry” approaches.

It should be an aim to expose and convince people in other disciplines of the importance of “Combinatorial Chemistry”. Therefore a mission task should be convincing people of the power of combinatorial approaches, thereby promoting "Combinatorial Chemistry". Scientists in many other (chemistry) disciplines are still unaware of the possibilities of “Combinatorial Chemistry”. Only recently is the catalysis field starting to investigate the possibilities of "Combinatorial Chemistry" approaches in this area. Merely, the exposure or at least information about "Combinatorial Chemistry" approaches may facilitate entering this area. It should become very clear why "Combinatorial Chemistry" is important and for which areas (see below). The initiative can be further enhanced by offering specific grant money in the field.

- Identification of areas which are suitable or amenable to combinatorial approaches or applications.

There are many research areas and disciplines where it will be important. "Combinatorial Chemistry" involves methods and approaches, which are reminiscent, at the basis or essential (responsible) for important developments in the various disciplines. A good example in this respect is analytical chemistry.

B2: Sub-Topics

Specific aims

The specific aims are mainly related to new developments in areas in which "Combinatorial Chemistry" already plays an important role and areas which will benefit from the introduction of "Combinatorial Chemistry" approaches.

1. Organic chemistry - The construction of a lead compound (a compound with any desired property) is currently hampered by a limited availability of building blocks and scaffolds. There is a need for robust repetitive quantitative reactions, leading to more diversity.

The availability of one particular quantitative reaction which can be used for the preparation of a library, (compare the formation of the amide bond in peptide) will limit the number of reaction steps for optimisation, which is advantageous for the faster construction of libraries. Developments are necessary with respect to new linkers (traceless, universal), new solid supports and further translation of text book chemistry, including investigation of the scope, to the solid support. As a consequence developments in related and other areas will be triggered e.g. with respect to monitoring of reactions, identification, purification, multicomponent reactions, polymeric bound reagents and catalysts.

2. Catalysis and new materials - Catalysis is an important new area for "Combinatorial Chemistry". Efficient enantioselective catalysts could make important contributions to the future of the European chemical industry, facilitating the synthesis of complex biologically active molecules with maximum economy and minimal environmental impact. The use of combinatorial techniques in the design and development of new enantioselective catalysts is a rapidly emerging field with great potential. This is true for both the development of the chiral ligands

and of the high-throughput screening methodologies (chiral GC and HPLC, nano-polarimeters).

In this emerging field the industrial perspective is essential. "Combinatorial Chemistry" may increase the output of research by dramatically increasing the number of experiments e.g. by using synthesis robots, miniaturisation and rapid screening technologies. Important in the "Combinatorial Chemistry" preparation of catalysts and of ligands is their purity. Furthermore, high throughput screening has been hampered by the lack of suitable robots and special reactions conditions are often required (e.g. high pressure) for evaluation. In addition, there is no general system for screening of catalysts like is often case in the screening of pharmaceutical compounds ("binding" and "functional" assays).

The situation for the development of new materials is even more complex but in view of the potential, extremely challenging. Issues are the measurement of the function or the required property of the material on a small amount of the material. Since there are many conceivable properties related the enormous variety of applications (coatings, detergents, flavors and fragrances, electronic materials, ceramics, structural materials, intelligent self-assemblies, fiber, tapes, polymers), universal "screens" of these properties are unlikely and finding an "assay" for a particular material property will be a necessary challenge in many cases.

Analytical chemistry -There are many challenges for analytical chemistry related to “Combinatorial Chemistry”. On one hand analytical techniques are extremely important for carrying out “Combinatorial Chemistry” (monitoring reactions, identification, establishing purity etc.) on the other "Combinatorial Chemistry" can be instrumental in e.g. the development of chemosensors, miniaturisation ("nano" hplc), chemometry and developments of new separation materials.

Applications in process development - Although process development is carried out on a relatively large scale, the preceding stages (solvent selection, temperature, ratio determination) can be carried out on a much smaller scale (cf. environmental aspects) amenable to "Combinatorial Chemistry" approaches

Understanding and using recognition phenomena - This is an emerging area of considerable importance. Synthetic receptors are appearing capable of recognition desired (bio)molecules, which is important e.g. in the development of sensors. With respect to this the chiral recognition area is especially interesting e.g. for the finding of (combinations of) resolving reagents and chiral stationary phases for chiral separations as well as chiral hosts. Other new developments include dynamic Combinatorial Chemistry as well as combinatorial biosynthesis and catalysis.

Nearby future, Immediate actions

- WEB-site page "Combinatorial Chemistry" as part of the page for COST-chemistry

- Establishment of a society of Combinatorial Chemistry, preferably after the "Combinatorial Chemistry" meeting in Tübingen 4-6 October 1999.

Future: through COST new EU networks can be created which can compete for project subsidies.

"Combinatorial Chemistry" spans many disciplines and therefore project subsidies should be established in which several disciplines are combined toward the realisation of a common goal (e.g. the development of a particular sensor system involving enzymology, organic chemistry, polymer chemistry and optoelectronics).

It is clear that COST-funding by itself is not sufficient to start a European program on "Combinatorial Chemistry". It will stimulate the cooperation and contacts between scientists working in this area and provide strong impetus for making EU networks in which groups with the requested complementary skills collaborate. Moreover, it will be an incentive for further cooperation between science foundations of different countries in this area. In order to carry out "Combinatorial Chemistry" at a "state of the art" level, the required analytical and synthetic equipment has to be ugraded at Universities as compared to companies. In principle with the presently available mass and NMR equipment a lot is possible but not at a competitive level.

Further points of attention:

intellectual property: there is already discussion (especially in the US) about which and how libraries can protected

(Descriptions are provided by the Actions directly via e-COST.)

General Information*

Chair of the Action:

Prof John NIELSEN (DK)

Vice Chair of the Action:

Prof Jean-Louis REYMOND (CH)

Science officer of the Action:

Dr Lucia FORZI

Administrative officer of the Action:

Ms Svetlana VOINOVA


Action Fact Sheet

Download AFS as .RTF

Memorandum of Understanding

Download MoU as PDF

Final Report

Download Final Report as PDF


Last updated: 02 May 2011 top of page