Chemical synthesis mimicking living cells produces large quantity antibiotics

Edit Hook

A team led by Qian Cheng and Bradley Moore of Scripps have successfully replicated the chemical synthesis pathway of a natural antibiotic produced by a Hawaiian sea sediment bacterium. Instead of conventional chemical synthesis procedures that depend on step-wise reactions, the researchers combined all of the enzymes in the bacterial synthesis pathway together in a single reaction vessel. A quantity of the antibiotic, enterocin, that would normally take up to a year to synthesize chemically was produced in only two hours using this new combination process. This enzyme cocktail synthesis technique represents a new tool for rapidly generating large quantities of pharmaceutically valuable molecules. Besides enterocin, enzymes could be combined in novel ways to produce new antibiotics and drugs that Moore calls “unnatural natural products.”

Key Differentiators

Rapid enzymatic synthesis of pharmaceuticals could theoretically produce drugs more rapidly and inexpensively than ordinary techniques. Moreover, toxic man-made waste would be greatly reduced.

Biomimicry Story

This manifestation of biomimicry demonstrates how complex molecules can be assembled without the use of man-made chemicals.

Challenges Solved

Conventional synthesis processes for large complex molecules like antibiotics are labor-, time-, and energy-intensive. They often produce large quantities of toxic waste for a small industrial quantity of product.

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