Recognition for Breakthroughs in Crystallography at Southampton to Aid Drug Discovery

drug discovery
Dr Ivo Tews

Significant discoveries in structural chemistry at the University of Southampton that could lead to the design of more effective drugs to combat diseases such as malaria are featured in the latest edition of Nature Chemical Biology (published 17 January 2017).

Dr Ivo Tews’ paper ‘Lysine relay mechanism coordinates intermediate transfer in vitamin B6 biosynthesis’ is the culmination of more than ten years of research funded by the European Union and German Research Council into understanding the chemistry of nature. He has used the latest techniques in X-ray crystallography and spectroscopy to gain novel insights into the chemical structure of enzymes.

“During the project we experimented with enzymes from ten different organisms before identifying the right one for our purposes, and took data from more than 1,200 crystals,” he says.

Ivo’s team has worked with Cornell University, the UK’s Diamond Light Source and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble as part of the investigation into how synthesis of vitamin B6 works. Delivering a simple explanation for a complex biochemical synthesis, the reported findings are an unprecedented example of imine chemistry.

In human pathogens such as Tuberculosis, this pathway provides a new avenue to develop anti-microbial drugs. Southampton / Diamond Light Source funded PhD research students Matthew Rodrigues and Volker Windeisen have played integral roles in the research.