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Basel research paves way for new drugs

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Basel research paves way for new drugs


Chemists at the University of Basel have developed a new synthesis approach to artificially create terpenes. These contain substances that can be used in treatments for cancer, epilepsy, and malaria.

Using a new approach, chemists at the University of Basel have succeeded in the total synthesis of the two natural products randainin D (left) and barekoxide (right). (Image: University of Basel)

Researchers at the University of Basel have developed a new synthesis approach for the manufacture of complex natural substances with the ingredients for treatments for various illnesses. According to a press release, many natural substances contain properties that form the basis for new active substances in medicine.

Terpenes form a group of substances that have already been used in treatments against cancer, epilepsy, and malaria, for example. They occur in plants, insects, and sea sponges. However, a vital prerequisite for the further development of drugs is that these terpenes must be created fully synthetically. This enables the determination of their precise molecular structures and changes to be made to them in a targeted way to optimize their properties for use as medication.

Possible candidate for therapeutic agents

Chemist Olivier Baudoin and PhD student Oleksandr Vyhivskyi have now developed a synthetic pathway and created two terpenes belonging to the subgroup of diterpenes: randainin D and barekoxide. They have published a report on this in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Randainin D comes from plants and inhibits the production of an enzyme that plays a candidate for therapeutic agentspart in illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This makes it a possible candidate for therapeutic agents. The chemists created randainin D in 17 synthesis steps. This involved photocatalysis, which uses light energy to trigger chemical reactions. Professor Baudoin commented: “Our results show the potential of photocatalysis for the total synthesis of complex terpenes. This could pave the way for the development of new medications.” The researchers subsequently used the same synthesis method to create barekoxide.

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