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An unnatural way to make natural products

June 11, 2019 / phys.org

From medicine to fragrances, nature provides many of the key chemical compounds needed in an endless number of pharmaceuticals and consumer products. Now, a cutting-edge technique engineered by researchers at University of South Florida is changing the way scientists isolate these precious molecules. "Plant natural productsare already widely used across so many industries," said Ramon Gonzalez, Ph.D., professor in the USF Department of Chemical & Biomedical Engineering and a Florida 21st Century World Class Scholar. "Taxus brevifolia, for example, the Pacific yew plant, contains molecules that are used to produce a chemotherapy drug for several cancer treatments. The problem is that many of these products are expensive and difficult to extract efficiently." Gonzalez and his research team focused their efforts on a class of plant natural products (PNPs) called isoprenoids. With more than 50,000 of these isoprenoids synthesized in nature, they represent one of the...