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ICReDD Director Professor Satoshi Maeda captures the audience with his vision of the institute’s future impact. (Photo: @studi-j)

First International Symposium Sets High Expectations

ICReDD held its first international symposium on Tuesday, March 12 and Wednesday, March 13. With only a few months since the center was launched last October, the conference was a mustering of institute pieces that will have to be put together over the coming years.

The Institute for Chemical Reaction Design and Discovery aims at establishing which chemical reactions need to be chosen to arrive at any given goal, for example, a drug with a certain activity or a material with certain mechanical characteristics. In order to achieve this, the institute employs a combination of computational, information and experimental science synergistically.

Consequently, Professor Satoshi Maeda of Hokkaido University, the Director of ICReDD, first introduced the dream behind the institute, its strategy and its team, and then detailed his own contribution of how to predict chemical reaction pathways and conditions; Professor Alexandre Varnek of the University of Strasbourg, a Principal Investigator at ICReDD, explained how computational chemical reactions mining can be used to identify which structures and which reactions are promising to achieve a set goal; Professor Benjamin List of the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research, another Principal Investigator at ICReDD, gave his account of how chemical reactions can be controlled efficiently by designing appropriate catalysts; and Professor Hajime Ito of Hokkaido University, also a Principal Investigator at ICReDD, showcased how the experimental search for new chemical reactions can successfully be guided by computational predictions.

But not only ICReDD members presented. We were honored to hear Professor Kenichiro Itami of Nagoya University, the Director of the fellow WPI project ITbM, talk on his research and his experience as a WPI center Director; Professor Shin-ichi Minato of Kyoto University demonstrate the power of algorithmic techniques for finding optimal solutions in circumstances of combinatorial complexity; and Professor Hisashi Yamamoto of Chubu University talk us through the background and the benefits of his groundbreaking work on peptide synthesis.

ICReDD sets out to fundamentally change the way chemical reactions are discovered. Instead of relying on experience and serendipity to find useful mechanisms, systematic search using a combination of computerized and experiment-based methods will enable us to take full control over chemical reactions. And, as Professor Kazuyuki Tatsumi of Nagoya University, also Program Officer at ICReDD, noticed: “If you can control reactions, you control all of chemistry.”

That is a strong claim, and high expectations rest on the institute. But this conference showed, clearly and to all attendees, that all pieces are present and that they fit together very well. We are excited to see the unfolding picture.

For a full list of speakers, please refer to this article or the symposium’s program.

Attendees and presenters (front row) at ICReDD’s first International Symposium. (Photo: @studi-j)

Author: Daniel Schenz