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NEW drugs from OLD pathways - Teaching Nature New Tricks

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Born in Dollar and educated at Alloa Academy, Tom Simpson graduated (BSc Edinburgh) in 1969 and (PhD Bristol) in 1973. After post-doctoral work in Liverpool and Canberra (ANU), he was appointed Lecturer in Edinburgh in 1978. He moved to Leicester in 1988, at the time the youngest Professor of Organic Chemistry in the UK, and then to Bristol in 1990.  He has been awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry Corday-Morgan and Natural Products Chemistry medals and the Tilden, Simonsen and Hugo Muller lectureships and, most recently, the Rita and John Cornforth Award for interdisciplinary research and the Robert Robinson Lectureship.  He works on the chemistry and biosynthesis of biologically important microbial natural products. Elected FRS in 2001, FRSE in 2006, and received an Honorary D.Sc. from Edinburgh in 2015.

NEW drugs from OLD pathways – Teaching Nature New Tricks. Tom Simpson, School of Chemistry, University of Bristol

Engineering metabolic pathways in microorganisms can provide new antibiotics and other bioactive natural products.

The mupirocins, e.g. pseudomonic acid A and thiomarinols isolated from Pseudomonas and Pseudoalteromonas bacteria are antibiotics active against MRSA . Clinical applications are restricted by instability in the former and toxicity in the latter. Using classical biosynthetic methods to understand how they are formed, combined with molecular genetic engineering, novel analogues in which both these limitations are overcome can be produced. Similarly, the biosynthetic pathway to the fungal metabolite, tenellin, isolated from Beauvaria bassiana, has been engineered to produce the “extinct” compound, bassianin, and many new compounds for biological evaluation.

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