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23 September, 2021 - 12:49 By Tony Quested

Digital chemistry revolution accelerates from Cambridge

The Innovation Centre in Digital Molecular Technologies (iDMT), a multi-million-pound project based at the University of Cambridge, has appointed an external advisory board of UK thought leaders to align the centre with both national interests and local priorities in the digital chemistry sector.

The board’s composition has been honed to complement the centre’s existing strengths with the new members bringing a range of experiences in the areas of support for UK-based SMEs, small-molecule discovery and chemistry innovation.

Alexei Lapkin, director of the iDMT and Professor of Sustainable Reaction Engineering at the University of Cambridge, said: “iDMT is a new and, so far, unique entity in the UK with its focus on helping SMEs to succeed in the transition to digital research and development and manufacturing.

“Having a high-powered external advisory board is critical as we look to the board’s experience in innovation in this very complex technology area.”

The centre offers an advanced platform for the rapid development and testing of new products and services, in the chemical synthesis of molecules and materials. 

Its aim is to open new markets for SMEs and accelerate access to pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, functional molecules and molecular materials using artificial intelligence and robotics-based synthesis.

In partnership with AstraZeneca and Shionogi, and with funding from the European Regional Development Fund, the iDMT has established a new research facility in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge. 

The £5 million project is led by Professor Lapkin and combines world-leading academic expertise from the Departments of Chemistry, Physics, and Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, integrating high-throughput synthesis, analytics, chemical informatics, machine learning, robotics and reaction engineering.

The new external advisory board members include Professor Andy Neely –  Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations at the University of Cambridge and former head of the Institute for Manufacturing. 

Andy was founding director of the Centre for Digital Built Britain and the Cambridge Service Alliance and is widely recognised for his work on the servitisation of manufacturing as well as performance measurement and management.

He is joined by Alleyn Plowright, head of Translational Science and Pre-Clinical Development at Wren Therapeutics – a spin-off company from the University of Cambridge and Lund University (Sweden) dedicated to eliminating protein misfolding diseases by discovering and developing new therapeutics. 

Plowright previously held appointments as head of Integrated Drug Discovery for Sanofi, Germany and was a project leader in Medicinal Chemistry at AstraZeneca. 

Also on board is Neelam Patel – CEO of MedCity which was established in 2014 by the Mayor of London in partnership with London’s Academic Health Science Centres as the cluster organisation for world-leading health and life sciences in the region. 

Patel has extensive leadership experience in the biopharma industry and public sector including National Institute for Health Research service improvement and strategy.

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