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September 3, 2001
Volume 79, Number 36
CENEAR 79 36 p. 11
ISSN 0009-2347
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Website that posts chemical problems has awarded money for solutions


To a typical graduate student making $15,000 to $20,000 per year, $2,000 is a nice piece of change. That's the amount recently paid through InnoCentive for "paper chemistry" synthetic analyses of two compounds. A U.S. graduate student got $4,000 for providing solutions for both, while a European graduate student received $2,000 for solving one.

RECIPES FOR SUCCESS Proposed synthetic routes for the above two chemical structures were worth $2,000 each.
InnoCentive hosts a website, launched in July, where companies post challenging problems that they hope can be solved by people in the broader scientific community (C&EN, July 2, page 5). It is the first independent e-business venture of drug producer Eli Lilly's e.Lilly initiative and hopes to attract other firms seeking solutions to their problems.

Lilly posted both problems. Posting organizations pay the rewards--currently as high as $100,000--for what they deem the best solutions. The reward's size is tied to a problem's difficulty and the value to the solution seeker. Total awards for nearly 30 remaining problems exceed $1.5 million.

InnoCentive says more than 1,200 users have registered and opened over 600 "project rooms." Although solvers don't need to meet any specific qualifications, they must register and sign an agreement that covers intellectual property and confidentiality issues. Along with graduate students, users include custom synthesis houses, professors, undergraduates, and retired chemists.

"InnoCentive shows that scientists come from many walks of life," says Alpheus Bingham, e.Lilly vice president and InnoCentive chairman. "There's a lot of expertise out there, and we could have searched our usual ways for months and never found some of the people who are coming to us."

InnoCentive has been targeting organic chemistry but anticipates establishing communities in other branches of chemistry and other scientific disciplines in the coming months.

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