"It's a little bit like draw poker," Wender said. "The important point is that we're not forced to use the hand we get. We'll get a hand and we'll return a few cards if we don't like it, because we can keep on tuning this until we get it right, so that a royal flush, hopefully, can be realized."
Wender's team developed their method of synthesizing prostratin and DPP by using a renewable resource, croton oil, made from the seeds of a small tree (Croton tiglium) cultivated in Asia. They derived phorbol from the croton oil and then converted it into the structure of prostratin.
The conversion process required some engineering finesse; they had to overcome a hurdle when, by removing an oxygen atom, they triggered a series of anticipated but seemingly undesired changes.
"To the credit of my coworkers, Jung-Min Kee and Jeff Warrington, they employed a strategy that sometimes is missed," Wender said. "Rather than fighting the flow, they went with it." They found a way to redirect the chemical complications into a solution to the problem that proved even better than the route they had initially sought to follow.
"Eventually they produced a shorter, more economical way of connecting our starting material, phorbol, to our target, prostratin," Wender said. The process Kee and Warrington came up with requires only five steps, which is of tremendous importance in making it economically feasible. As Wender pointed out, "steps cost money and human time."
Wender emphasized that the work of his team is the most recent chapter in efforts of a truly global co
|Contact: Louis Bergeron|