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Synthesis produces new antibiotic

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A fortuitous collaboration at Rice University has led to the total synthesis of a recently discovered natural antibiotic.

The laboratory recreation of a fungus-derived antibiotic, viridicatumtoxin B, may someday help bolster the fight against bacteria that evolve resistance to treatments in hospitals and clinics around the world.

As part of the process, Rice organic chemist K.C. Nicolaou and structural biologist Yousif Shamoo and their colleagues created and tested a number of variants of viridicatumtoxin B that could lead to the simplified synthesis of a new generation of more effective antibiotics.

The work reported this month in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) focused on a tetracycline discovered in 2008 by scientists who isolated small amounts from penicillium fungi. The yield wasn’t nearly enough for extensive testing, but it provided a basis for the discoverers to analyze its structure through magnetic resonance imaging, Nicolaou said.

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