Finding new ways to make drugs

November 18, 2014, Australian National University
Finding new ways to make drugs
Professor Mick Sherburn outside the Research School of Chemistry

Chemists have developed a revolutionary new way to manufacture natural chemicals and used it to assemble a scarce anti-inflammatory drug with potential to treat cancer and malaria.

The breakthrough could lead to new and cheaper ways to produce rare drugs in large quantities.

"We took and clipped them together like Lego," said lead researcher Professor Michael Sherburn, from the Research School of Chemistry.

"The building blocks are carefully designed in such a way that the first reaction generates a product perfectly primed for the second. It's quite magical. This means you can efficiently build large and ."

Medicines of this type have traditionally been made in a cumbersome way. Chemists take a related molecule and renovate it. This is a lengthy process, with unwanted structural features being ripped out and replaced.

"This leads to a lot of waste," Professor Sherburn said.

The group trialed their innovative new method by making pseudopterosin, a powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic , which is currently only available in tiny quantities extracted from fan coral found in the Bahamas.

The work began as blue-sky research, with the researchers trying to work out a way to make supposedly impossible molecules of cross-conjugated hydrocarbons.

Before trying the experiments the team ran simulations on the Raijin supercomputer, which indicated that their method had potential.

"Ours is an empowering and enabling technique, allowing a smarter and faster way to make important substances," said Dr Chris Newton, who did the research in the laboratory as a PhD student.

"The pseudopterosin synthesis is the tip of the iceberg. We are well on the way to efficient syntheses of other important drugs.

"There is a potential for industrial-scale manufacture, too, which will take the pressure off species which are being harvested for drugs," he said.

The research is published in Nature Chemistry.

Explore further: Rare tree provides key to greener chemistry

More information: "Pseudopterosin synthesis from a chiral cross-conjugated hydrocarbon through a series of cycloadditions" Nature Chemistry (2014) DOI: 10.1038/nchem.2112

Related Stories

Rare tree provides key to greener chemistry

June 3, 2013

(Phys.org) —A rare tree found in Malaysia and Borneo holds the secret to greener chemical production, according to researchers from the Research School of Chemistry.

Understanding natural compounds

November 12, 2014

Antibiotic-resistant germs, dangerous viruses, cancer: unsolved medical problems require new and better drugs. Nature can provide the inspiration for new active agents. A computer-based method developed by a team of researchers ...

Recommended for you

A decade on, smartphone-like software finally heads to space

March 20, 2019

Once a traditional satellite is launched into space, its physical hardware and computer software stay mostly immutable for the rest of its existence as it orbits the Earth, even as the technology it serves on the ground continues ...

Tiny 'water bears' can teach us about survival

March 20, 2019

Earth's ultimate survivors can weather extreme heat, cold, radiation and even the vacuum of space. Now the U.S. military hopes these tiny critters called tardigrades can teach us about true toughness.

Researchers find hidden proteins in bacteria

March 20, 2019

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago have developed a way to identify the beginning of every gene—known as a translation start site or a start codon—in bacterial cell DNA with a single experiment and, through ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.