This project has received funding from the European Union′s 7th FP research and technological development programme under the Marie Curie grant agreement No 289723.
Complex systems are all around us: examples include stock markets, metabolic pathways, ecosystems, etc. Research into complex networks is well established in most major scientific disciplines, including computer science, biology, mathematics and physics, but not in chemistry. Chemists traditionally study substances in isolation. There used to be a very good reason for this: for a long time complex mixtures were simply intractable. Yet with the rapid development of analytical tools this situation has changed and the study of complex mixtures has already resulted in some useful applications. For example, protein sequencing is now routinely performed through the analysis of the diverse product mixtures resulting from enzymatic digests. Thus, there is now a great opportunity for chemists to start embracing complexity.
This network brings together nearly all major academic players active in Europe on experimental approaches to Systems Chemistry1 in general and molecular networks in particular. The industrial partners provide essential analytical support and the perspective on commercialisation of complex chemical systems. Aim of this high-level consortium is to provide a consolidated training program on Systems Chemistry, in the context of a cutting-edge research program focusing on two important phenomena: adaptation and replication in molecular networks.
Our research program is built around a core element of Systems Chemistry: synthetic molecular networks. Two different types of molecular networks can be identified: kinetically controlled and thermodynamically controlled networks1a The principal exponents of these areas are self-replicating systems (kinetically controlled)2 and dynamic combinatorial libraries (thermodynamically controlled).3 Thus far research has developed mostly along these largely separate lines. We now aim to bring these two fields together by putting in place a comprehensive research and training program encompassing the entire spectrum of research on synthetic molecular networks. This aim is reflected in the composition of the network, which unites the leading European research groups from the kinetic replicator "camp" (von Kiedrowski, Philp and Ashkenasy) and those from the dynamic combinatorial "camp" (Otto, Severin, Giuseppone, Prins and Ulijn). Our two industrial partners complement these teams by providing crucial support on the analytical chemistry of complex mixtures (NMRTEC) and by including the commercial application of new technology based on complex mixtures (Informium). Finally, the associated partner (Jullien) provides the necessary expertise in photochemistry required for some of the sub-projects.
2 For reviews, see: (a) Vidonne, A.; Philp, D. Eur. J. Org. Chem. 2009, 593. (b) Patzke, V.; von Kiedrowski, G. Arkivoc 2007, v, 293. (c) Dadon, Z., Wagner, N., Ashkenasy, G.; Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2008, 47, 6128.
3 For a review, see: Corbett, P. T.; Leclaire, J.; Vial, L.; West, K. R.; Wietor, J.-L.; Sanders, J. K. M.; Otto, S. Chem. Rev. 2006, 106, 3652.