Compound Challenge

A world-wide retrosynthesis competition to design the best synthetic route for a target molecule. Participants are given free access to Synthia Lite during the challenge period.

The Challenge

Since 2018, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany has hosted the Compound Challenge, a world-wide retrosynthesis competition to identify the best synthetic route for a given small molecule.

Anyone from around the world can register for the competition. Teams are given the structure of a target molecule simultaneously and have a limited amount of time to come up with a synthetic path. The best routes are then tested in a wet lab to determine the best actual route.

The team with the best route wins a prize of EUR 10,000 and is crowned the champion of the Compound Challenge.

Information on the 5th Compound Challenge will be communicated soon! 

The 1st place winner of the 4th Compound Challenge earns a 6 month subscription to SYNTHIA at no charge for their entire chemistry department (including 2 special training sessions during this period to support students and faculty with challenging questions they may have). The 2nd place winner of the 4th Compound Challenge earns a 3-month free subscription for their research group (not the entire department) with 1 complementary training and support session.

Find out more

Who can participate?

Anyone from around the world may participate, as an individual or in a team where not prohibited by local or country law. Individuals or teams may choose to opt-out of receiving the prize money if required to do so by their organization. This challenge is not open to Health Care Professionals.

How does it work?

  • Application by completing the online registration form and accepting terms and conditions. 
  • Submit your own (single applicant) or your team’s (team application) completed registration by filling out the online registration form 
  • We provide the structure of a small molecule to all registered participants. 
  • Participants have up to 96 hrs. to generate and submit a synthesis route. 
  • All obtained synthesis routes are anonymized, and each participant is assigned to evaluate several of these anonymized routes.
  • We select the top 10 best evaluated routes, to be tested in an actual chemical synthesis with a CRO of our choice. 
  • The winner, based on the terms and conditions of the challenge, receives a EUR 10,000 prize.
  • Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany does not attempt to commercialize any of the submitted synthetic routes.

The 2022 winners of the 4th Compound Challenge will be announced soon.

The 2021 winners of the 3rd Compound Challenge are Timothy Newhouse, Pengpeng Zhang, Ali Bodnar, Isaiah Aguilar, Jungmin Eun, Yannan Liu, Yingchuan Zhu, Jaehoo Lee, Rachel Cantrell - team from Yale University and Bryan Tambosco, Jonathan Moore, Darren Lee, Marcos Veguillas Hernando, Rodolfo Teixeira, Toby Waldron Clarke, James Herron, Adam Lee - team from the University of Nottingham.

The 2020 winners of our second compound challenge are Soumitra Athavale - from the California Institute of Technology and Florian Berger, Johannes Lehmann, Romain Melot, Paola Caramenti, Zhanchao Meng, Stephan Hess, Sorin-Claudiu Rosca, Laura Salacz, Marcos Mijangos Linares, Hector Yiannakas - team from the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung. Both teams utilized a unique Diels-Alder approach to the Vetispirane-Type Sesquiterpenoid Melongenaterpenes A.

The 2018 winners of our first Compound Challenge are Bart Herle, Fabio Caló, Julius Hillenbrand, Tobias Biberger, Sebastian Peil, Lorenz E. Löffler, Felix Anderl, and Marc Heinrich - team from the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung and Steven Bennett, Adam Noble, Jingjing Wu, Raffael Schrof, Felix Pape, James Fordham, and Rory Mykura - team from University of Bristol

More information

Terms & Conditions Document will be available soon  
Link to online registration form Link will be available soon