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Research from the School of Chemistry at NUI Galway has become the cover story in the international journal Synthesis. The research involved the development of a strategy to convert biomass to high value molecules for investigation in new drug discovery projects such as Type-2 Diabetes, Gaucher’s disease and Fabry disease.

Synthesis is devoted to the advancement of the science of synthetic chemistry and papers featured in the journal are noted as being ‘original papers of exceptional high quality and significance to the scientific community’.

Professor Paul Murphy, Head of the School of Chemistry at NUI Galway, and a PhD researcher from the School, Rekha Chadda from Co. Sligo, worked together to develop a new strategy to convert mannose, a naturally occurring sugar manufactured from wood-based or other biomass, into higher value chemicals, called glycomimetics, that can be useful in drug discovery.

Professor Patrick McArdle from the School of Chemistry, performed X-ray crystal structure analysis, which helped them confirm the molecular structure of substances produced in the research. Some glycomimetics are in clinical use and are used for the treatment of patients with Type-2 Diabetes, Gaucher’s disease (a genetic disorder) and Fabry disease (an inherited disorder that results from the build-up of a particular type of fat). A glycomimetic (UV4) is currently in clinical trials with a view to the therapy of infection caused by the Dengue virus and there is potential in treatment of other infections.

Professor Murphy, said: “The research demonstrates the value of Synthetic Chemistry. We used a renewable molecule, the sugar mannose, from biomass as a basis for generating higher value molecules that have potential in drug discovery projects. “In future we would like to expand the application of the strategy to make other important molecules for drug discovery projects as well as see if the approach can have application in synthesis of pharmaceuticals.”

The team used a new strategy, not investigated previously, to produce the glycomimetics. These new agents are now available for evaluation of their potential in drug discovery and this will be shortly investigated. Synthesis is a practice used by chemists to discover and manufacture drugs in everyday clinical use.

This research study was funded by NUI Galway (PhD scholarship to Rekha Chadda), Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the European Regional Development Fund.