Richard Taylor, professor of chemistry and biochemistry who also serves as the associate dean for research, has received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the “Synthesis and Biosynthesis of Pyran and Spiroketal Structural Units.” The $1,480,000 grant enables the further development of synthetic methods recently discovered by members of Taylor’s research team and their application to the study of two complex natural products with exciting biological activity. Taylor’s research interests include the evolution and chemotherapeutic potential of polyketide natural products for use in the treatment of such diseases as cancer.
In collaboration with researchers at the University of Saarland, the Taylor group will investigate the biosynthetic pathway that leads to ambruticin production in the myxobacterium, Sorangium cellulosum. The ambruticins have been shown to be potent anti-fungal agents with a novel mode of action. Thus, research funded by this grant may help address a critical need for new antifungal agents, which are necessary to treat life-threatening invasive infections.
A second area of emphasis is a study of neopeltolide, a natural product recently isolated in small quantities from a sponge from deep waters off the Jamaican coast. Preliminary analysis has shown that neopeltolide has potent and selective activity against cancer cell lines. Recent Notre Dame graduates Rendy Kartika (Ph.D. ’08) and Thomas Gruffi (B.S. Chemistry, ’09) successfully developed a large-scale synthesis of neopeltolide, which enabled further biological studies. Current group members are now utilizing this efficient route to identify the key structural features necessary to induce its cancer-killing activity.