Research and development (R & D) expenditures by pharmaceutical companies doubled over the past decade, yet candidate attrition rates and development times rose markedly during this period. Understandably, companies have begun downsizing their pipelines and diverting investments away from R & D in favor of manufacturing. It is estimated that transitioning to continuous manufacturing could enable companies to compete for a share in emerging markets. Accordingly, the model for continuous manufacturing that has emerged commences with the conversion of late-stage intermediates into the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) in a series of continuous flow reactors, followed by continuous solid processing to form finished tablets. The use of flow reactions for API synthesis will certainly generate purer products at higher yields in shorter times compared to equivalent batch reactions. However, transitioning from batch to flow configuration simply alleviates transport limitations within the reaction milieu. As the catalogue of reactions used in flow syntheses is a subset of batch-based chemistries, molecules such as natural products will continue to evade drug prospectors. Also, it is uncertain whether flow synthesis can deliver improvements in the atom and energy economies of API production at the scales that would achieve the levels of revenue growth targeted by companies. Instead, it is argued that implementing metabolic engineering for the production of oxidized scaffolds as gateway molecules for flow-based addition of electrophiles is a more effective and scalable strategy for accessing natural product chemical space. This new paradigm for manufacturing, with metabolic engineering as its engine, would also permit rapid optimization of production variables and allow facile scale-up from gram to ton scale to meet material requirements for clinical trials, thus recasting manufacturing as a tool for discovery.