Billion-dollar project would synthesize hundreds of thousands of molecules in search of new medicines

Martin Burke says his synthesis machine could turbocharge chemists’ ability to create natural products.

Martin Burke is a tad envious. A chemist at the University of Illinois in Urbana, Burke has watched funding agencies back major research initiatives in other fields. Biologists pulled in billions of dollars to decipher the human genome, and physicists persuaded governments to fund the gargantuan Large Hadron Collider, which discovered the Higgs boson. Meanwhile chemists, divided among dozens of research areas, often wind up fighting for existing funds. Burke wants to change that.

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