Penn Chemistry: UPenn/Merck High Throughput Experimentation Laboratory

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The UPenn/Merck High Throughput Experimentation Laboratory is a joint research facility emerging from a collaboration between Merck and Co., Inc. and the Department of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, enabled by a National Science Foundation GOALI (Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry) grant. Our mission is to provide students and postdoctoral researchers with interests in organic synthesis with a very powerful tool for rapid reaction development or for quick discovery of new catalytic systems that would allow fast progress to be achieved. The high throughput experimentation (HTE) technique has been used for many years in research and development departments of many agrochemical and pharmaceutical companies. Some of its main advantages over other research techniques are: 

  • the use of very small amounts of chemicals necessary (reactions can be performed on as low as 2.5 μmol scale of substrate and 0.25 μmol of catalyst loading, which translates into microgram amounts of materials), thus minimizing waste and providing more sustainable development of new processes;
  • high screening capacity (more than 500 reactions/day can be performed);
  • good analytical capacity (up to 4 blocks of 96 reactions can be simultaneously analyzed by using our 2 brand-new, state-of-the-art HPLC instruments and up to 120 reactions on our SFC instrument);
  • of particular importance is technology transfer from Merck, which provides us with quick access to a large library of very precious and expensive ligands pre-dosed in small 1 mL vials and ready to use in our research.
We are pleased to be among the first such centers outside the industrial environment (similar facilities only exist at CalTech and Princeton University thus far) and we strive to provide training and consultancy at the highest professional level for our users.
An important feature of the laboratory is the new approach in which it is operated. The first of the GOALI postdoctoral research associates was trained at Merck’s research facility in Rahway, New Jersey. He subsequently returned to Penn, and undertook the intensive training of the first generation of graduate students (Penn-Merck Champions). These individuals will, in turn, educate future generations of participants. In this manner the Laboratory will be self-sustaining in terms of qualified personnel available, thus avoiding not only an undesirable monopoly of just a limited group of knowledgeable people but also creating important leadership opportunities among the users.
The long-term goal of the Laboratory is to provide the infrastructure for fast advances of research projects in organic reaction development, as well as to prepare UPenn graduate students and postdoctoral research associates with the necessary means (equipment, instrumentation and professional guidance) for their professional growth. The director of the HTE Facility is Dr. Simon Berritt.

Department of Chemistry

231 S. 34 Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6323

215.898.8317 voice | 215.573.2112 fax | web@chem.upenn.edu