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Drugs from nature

25 Nov, 2010

Margaret Brimble’s research team are trying to make new medicines by synthesising natural compounds.

Listen to audio: Drugs from nature

Duration: 12:43

Synthesising drugs from nature

Many pharmaceuticals originally came from nature, for example quinine, penicillin, aspirin, ephedrine and taxol. At the University of Auckland, Margaret Brimble’s research team are trying to make new medicines by synthesising natural compounds. Some of these compounds come from microorganisms living in extreme environments.

Improving nature’s designs

Mike McLeod explains how he is synthesising berkelic acid, a potential anticancer drug. Berkelic acid was originally isolated from a microorganism growing in a metal-laden lake in Montana.

Get news story: Toxic lake fungi could hold anticancer compound

Daniel Furkert is synthesising shellfish toxins (called spirolides) from algae. These compounds target specific brain receptors and are potential treatments for neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia. Shellfish toxins have a complex structure that is being synthesised in the lab and altered to improve function.

Programme details: Our Changing World

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