Automation and data-driven design of polymer therapeutics

Rahul Upadhya, Shashank Kosuri, Matthew Tamasi, Travis A. Meyer, Supriya Atta, Michael A. Webb, Adam J. Gormley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Polymers are uniquely suited for drug delivery and biomaterial applications due to tunable structural parameters such as length, composition, architecture, and valency. To facilitate designs, researchers may explore combinatorial libraries in a high throughput fashion to correlate structure to function. However, traditional polymerization reactions including controlled living radical polymerization (CLRP) and ring-opening polymerization (ROP) require inert reaction conditions and extensive expertise to implement. With the advent of air-tolerance and automation, several polymerization techniques are now compatible with well plates and can be carried out at the benchtop, making high throughput synthesis and high throughput screening (HTS) possible. To avoid HTS pitfalls often described as “fishing expeditions,” it is crucial to employ intelligent and big data approaches to maximize experimental efficiency. This is where the disruptive technologies of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) will likely play a role. In fact, ML and AI are already impacting small molecule drug discovery and showing signs of emerging in drug delivery. In this review, we present state-of-the-art research in drug delivery, gene delivery, antimicrobial polymers, and bioactive polymers alongside data-driven developments in drug design and organic synthesis. From this insight, important lessons are revealed for the polymer therapeutics community including the value of a closed loop design-build-test-learn workflow. This is an exciting time as researchers will gain the ability to fully explore the polymer structural landscape and establish quantitative structure-property relationships (QSPRs) with biological significance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
JournalAdvanced Drug Delivery Reviews
StatePublished - Apr 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmaceutical Science


  • Artificial intelligence
  • Automation
  • Drug delivery
  • Gene delivery
  • High throughput screening
  • Machine learning
  • Polymer chemistry


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