A revolutionary new scientific method developed at the University of Leeds will improve the diversity of 'biologically active molecules', such as antibiotics and anti-cancer agents.
The researchers, who report their findings online today in the journal Nature Chemistry, took their inspiration from evolution in nature. The research may uncover new pharmaceutical drugs that traditional methods would never have found.
"Nature produces some amazing structures with really interesting biological activity, but the plant or animal did not design them. Instead the organisms gradually evolved both the chemical structures and the methods to produce them over millennia because they were of benefit. We wanted to capture the essence of this in our approach to discovering new drugs," said George Karageorgis, a PhD student from the School of Chemistry and the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology at the University of Leeds, and first author of the study.
The traditional method for discovering new drugs involves preparing new biologically active molecules by adjusting the chemical structure of an existing one slightly and analysing the results. This trial and error method is both time consuming and limits the variety of new types of drugs that are developed.
"There is a known problem with limited diversity in drug discovery. It's like a baker always going to the same storage cupboard and using the same ingredients, yet hoping to create something that tastes different," said Dr Stuart Warriner from the School of Chemistry and the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology at the University of Leeds, a co-author of the research paper.
"Our novel approach is like taking lots of different ingredients including things you may never think will work together and trying different combinations of these in each cup of a cupcake tray. If the result 'tastes' promising then we use this as the starting point for anoth
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University of Leeds