How can chemistry help nature? Read the article to discover the perspective of Camilla, one of our junior scientists:
Scientists are constantly looking for molecules exhibiting desired therapeutic properties. A typical drug discovery cycle can take many years and it is not an easy-peasy job! Finding a new drug candidate can be time consuming and expensive.
There’s a great interest in finding molecules that can be used as potential drugs. It is well-known that microorganisms have the incredible capability of making many molecules (or natural products) and use them to interact with their environment as well as to counter a threat. All these compounds are chemically tailored and have greatly contributed to new agents against infectious diseases.
However, microorganisms do not make these molecules to be used in humans or animals and many of them cannot be used in their “native form”. Here comes the chemist to properly modify what nature has provided and make it suitable as a drug. The real magic lies in the fact that these structurally complex molecules are made of “small pieces” that can be appropriately cut out, moved or modified by the chemist in order to make the product acquire brand new properties. In this way the chemist plays a pivotal role in harnessing what nature has made for other purposes!
Due to the complexity of the starting material, it would be useful to accelerate and simplify these modifications through reactions that would occur “in a click”. Barry Sharpless in 2001 defined click chemistry as a group of modular reactions that occur under simple conditions and in high yields. We can imagine these chemical approaches as simple as linking available building blocks, more or less as assembling an IKEA desk!. Click reactions on natural products are warmly welcome also because they are known to be mild so that other portions of a natural compound will not be affected!
At NAICONS we are dedicated to the challenges and opportunities that natural products put on our paths!