Mimicking Mother Nature

Synthetic Chemist Erik Sorensen:

Building Healing Molecules

Sorensen Emulates Nature

Synthetic chemist Erik Sorensen creates molecules to heal disease

Nature’s chemicals


Can chemical weapons be helpful?

Photo: Brian Wilson

Answer: Yes

Chemical weapons can be helpful

Nature’s Chemical Weapons

Chemicals from plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria

In nature

In medicine

From Plant to Medicine

In nature, foxglove is poisonous. In medicine, it is used to make digoxin, a drug used for heart failure and irregular heartbeat

In nature, opium is a beautiful flower. In medicine, it is used to make morphine, a strong painkiller

From Mold to Medicine

How to Make a Molecule

Step 1: Know all the atoms in the target molecule, how they connect to each other, and how they fit together in 3-dimensional space

Step 2: Choose a few starting materials (atoms) and pour or scoop them one-by-one into a glass flask

Step 3: Design a series of chemical reactions that will convince the atoms to form the target molecule by attaching at the correct places, releasing unneeded parts, or correctly swapping one atom for another

Adapting to Nature in Short Supply

Cyclostreptin: a Self-Made Molecule

Tools and Techniques

How do these tools help synthetic chemists?

What are some of the ways scientists do this?

What tools unavailable in nature can chemists use to help them make nature’s molecules?

Research Applications

What are some of the concerns of people who are opposed to bioprospecting?