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Scientists develop breakthrough polyketide using Bahamian sediment

The discovery of a polyketide called Bahamaolide A – given the name because it is cultured from marine sediment found in The Bahamas – has the potential to speed up the process of creating complex molecules for antibiotics and anti-fungal medicines, a Newswise.com article explains.

The article explains that the polyketide is a “first-of-its-kind discovery by chemists at the University of Bristol”. The bacteria is grown from sediment found at North Cat Cay.

“The breakthrough, published in scientific journal Nature Chemistry, marks the culmination of a five-year research project which has finally cracked how to reconstruct in a laboratory a particularly complex molecule, from the family of molecules known as the polyketides,” the article says.

Lead author of the research Sheenagh Aiken said in the article that the discovery could be important to the pharmaceutical industry and public health.

“We chose this specific polyketide because it is one of the hardest to work with and manipulate,” said Aiken.

“Now we’ve devised a way to make it more quickly in the lab. This should make it easier to 

apply the technique to others with equally significant implications.”

According to the article, polyketides are found naturally bacteria, sea sponges and sediments. It added that polyketides have powerful medicinal properties and are found in “a fifth of all pharmaceuticals” made. 

“Using existing methods, it would normally take more than 20 different steps to construct it in a laboratory,” the article said.

“The researchers found a new, improved way to combine the building blocks for the molecule so it could be made in just 14 steps.”

Aiken added: “The technique mimics nature by coupling together building blocks and using catalysts to add and modify functional groups in a process like an assembly line. This highly controlled and predictable approach has potential for making the manufacture of sophisticated molecules more efficient.”

The Bahamas has developed and enacted legislation to ensure that it benefits financially from these kinds of finds, which have the potential to command high price tags if taken to market.

The country did now allowed research to be carried out in the country for a period of time while it developed the legislation.

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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