Scientists Improve On Mother Nature’s Drugs, Atom by Atom
Mother Nature has provided scientists with a lot of odd chemical structures that work as drugs, and offers inspirational templates for new drugs. But good drugs derived from scorpion venom, tree bark, and other strange sources aren’t easily cooked up in the lab.
Now a group from the University of Illinois, backed by a big-name venture capital firm, says it has hit upon an efficient way of automated synthesis of small molecules based on natural products, and tweaking them so they have a better shot at becoming drugs.
The Illinois team led by Martin Burke is reporting today, in the peer-reviewed journal Science, that they have created a new process for synthesizing organic compounds from 14 different classes of small molecules. The finding is being aggressively promoted in a university statement, which says Burke’s team “built the machine to assemble complex small molecules at the click of a mouse, like a 3-D printer at the molecular level.” Third Rock Ventures, a prominent biotech venture firm, has put $45 million into the work, through a company called Revolution Medicines. The startup is seeking to further engineer and optimize the technique, while using its first version to craft new anti-fungal medicines.
“This provides extraordinary synthetic access to complex molecules like those found in nature, which allows us to make atom-by-atom modifications to redesign these molecules for serious diseases,” said Mark Goldsmith, the CEO of Revolution Medicines and a partner at Third Rock. Read more…