Pharma company offers €10,000 in prize money for retrosynthesis challenge that will bench test finalists’ proposals

A cash prize of €10,000 (£8,900) is up for grabs in a compound synthesis competition run by Merck KGaA that will see finalists’ routes tested at the bench.

The pharma company will select 12 teams or individuals from all the entries and give them 96 hours to come up with a synthesis route for the same small molecule. How each proposal works in practice will then be tested by a contract research organisation. Syntheses will be ranked by number of steps, product yields and purities.

The challenge is part of Merck’s 350th anniversary celebrations but might also be motivated by the company’s purchase of the retrosynthesis program Chematica last year. Merck points out that they are interested in how finalists arrived at their synthetic route, with or without computer software.

In addition to the prize money, Merck indicates finalists may have the chance to enter into collaborations with the company, which includes access to resources and contacts. Applicants will retain intellectual property ownership of their proposals.