The natural world, with all its diversity, is a popular place for researchers to go looking for new drugs, including those that fight cancer.
But there is often a wide gap between finding a plant, sponge, or bacterium that contains a candidate drug, and actually bringing a medicine to the market. Maybe the compound gets flushed out of the human body too quickly to be effective. Or maybe it turns out you have to grind up a metric ton of farmed sea squirts just to get a single gram of the drug.
For that reason, it usually makes more sense to identify a compound with potential medicinal properties and then make it in the lab, instead of relying on organisms. Often, researchers look to the natural processes that create the compounds for inspiration as they develop synthetic analogs. Though this “biomimetic” method works, it has some limitations. For more than 10 years, Caltech’s Brian Stoltz has been looking for a better approach, and now he has found it.
In December, Stoltz and his research team announced that they had developed a novel synthetic method for creating two compounds that hold the potential to become potent anti-cancer drugs.
Photo: Bernard Dupont/Wikimedia Commons
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