Lincoln scientist helps reproduce ‘anti-tumour antibiotic’

A University of Lincoln scientist has partnered with another academic to become the first in the world to reproduce a complete copy of an ‘anti-tumour antibiotic’.

Dr Martin Lear at the University of Lincoln and Professor Masahiro Hirama, based at Tohoku University in Japan, became the first scientists in the world to create a total synthesis of this highly unstable natural product.

The scientists cracked the chemical code of an incredibly complex ‘anti-tumour antibiotic’ – Kedarcidin – after around 20 years of dedicated research.

It has revealed new ways to combat drug-resistant bacteria and fight cancer. The study explains that researchers managed to reproduce the substance synthetically. It should open the door for other researchers and organisations to look as using Kedarcidin in more research and potentially new drug treatments.

Kedarcidin is known to be highly effective against cancer cells as well as drug-resistant bacteria. It has now been reproduced synthetically in the lab for the first time. It works by causing DNA damage to its target but also in its structural complexity.

Graphic representation of Kedarcidin.

The substance was discovered in its natural form by a pharmaceutical company when they extracted it from a soil sample in India almost 30 years ago. Scientists have been trying to reproduce it since.

Due to its complex structure it hasn’t been possible to reproduce it in its most complete and accurate form until now. Unlike many other antibiotics that focus solely on killing bacteria, Kedarcidin is also capable of harming tumour cells and has potential as an effective cancer treatment.

Dr Martin Lear at the University of Lincoln.

Reader in the School of Chemistry at the University of Lincoln, Dr Martin Lear, said: “Following its discovery in soil it took 10 years to determine the molecular structure of kedarcidin. With a reactive core protected by a protein cloak, it resembles something like a scotch egg!

“In 1997, I began the long journey of making kedarcidin’s reactive core with Professor Hirama, who was recently awarded the highest honour for a scientist in Japan. We basically needed to piece together a molecular puzzle of remarkable difficulty and then develop new ways of making the jigsaw pieces. 20 years later we have finally solved the puzzle.

“This extraordinary journey has revealed new molecular insights and promising mechanisms for fighting cancer and combating drug-resistant bacteria, and it has challenged the frontiers of chemistry and biology. Now the new biological knowledge and chemical ability we have can be used to develop the next generation of antibiotics and anticancer agents.”

A new paper detailing the findings which was published in The Journal of Antibiotics from Nature can be found here.