In a bid to reduce the amount of chemical waste generated by the chemical industry, researchers from the Indiana-based company Alchemy have developed a computer system that analyzes chemical waste samples to determine pathways for synthesizing new chemicals.

According to the company, the chemical industry is responsible for the production of a significant amount of waste. Yet, waste from the production of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and fertilizers, for example, could serve as the base materials for other valuable chemicals, the researchers suggest.

Noting that a small chemical waste sample contains a small number of molecules that could lead to millions of possible pathways toward a new product, the researchers are using the new platform to potentially streamline those pathways.

As such, the researchers created a system capable of producing the pathways necessary for synthesizing roughly 300 drugs currently in use in the medical industry — including carvedilol and salbutamol — from a waste product with over 200 compounds.

According to Alchemy, the pathways devised by the platform serve as descriptions of the steps needed to manufacture a given compound. Consequently, Alchemy tested the system using several of the pathways that were produced to manufacture a variety of real-world drugs, suggesting that the platform promises to significantly reduce waste from the chemical industry.

The study, Computer-designed repurposing of chemical wastes into drugs, appears in the journal Nature.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com