Harnessing the Chemistry of Plants (Prof. Sarah O’Connor, MPI for Chemical Ecology) – Prof. Sarah O’Connor

Harnessing the Chemistry of Plants (Prof. Sarah O'Connor, MPI for Chemical Ecology) - Prof.  Sarah O'Connor

Plants are excellent chemists, creating thousands of complex natural products. Nature creates enormous chemical complexity from simple starting materials, through the concerted action of enzymes that aggregate in metabolic pathways. The keynote speaker at the 2022 International Symposium on Chemical Biology, Prof. Sarah O’Connor focuses on plant biosynthesis pathways ranging from gene discovery, structural and mechanistic enzymology, and metabolic engineering.

Plants produce natural products with ecological, evolutionary and medicinal importance. For example, there are several plant-derived drugs that have played a major role in anticancer agents such as vinblastine, from the tropical flowering plant Madagascar periwinkle, and drugs such as Taxol, the yew tree, the analgesic morphine, and Taxol. Antimalarial artemisinin and quinine.

natural product are usually molecules with complex structures they are difficult to make through organic chemistry, They are also difficult to make by plants or other organisms that make them and typically require long metabolic pathways involving dozens of steps involving enzymes, regulatory factors, and transporters. For example, the anticancer drug vinblastine need more than 35 dedicated enzymes for its synthesis. Interpretation of these pathways has historically been challenging. Making natural plant products expensive and very time consuming to grow.

Keynote speaker at the 2022 symposium in Geneva

Keynote speaker at the 2022 International Symposium on Chemical Biology, Prof. Sarah O’Connor, Director of MPI (Jena, Germany) for Chemical Ecology, focused her research on Understand the Plant Biosynthetic Pathway, she takes one multidisciplinary approach To answer research questions and discover new genes for the responsible biosynthesis of complex natural products. His group also studies the mechanism, engineering and development of these biosynthetic enzymes, with particular interest in iridoids and alkaloids. By understanding the mechanisms of natural product synthesis, the O’Connor laboratory gives us an understanding of the evolution of natural product synthesis and provides important information for harnessing the properties of compounds and biocatalysts provided by plants, with these compounds- Also makes novels. synthetic biology.

During his speech at the symposium, titled “Harnessing the Chemistry of Plants”, She will shed light on the discovery process of enzymes which catalyze unusual or unprecedented enzymatic changes, mechanistic and structural characterization of these enzymes, and the methods by which these enzymes can be used to generate pharmacologically important compounds for metabolic engineering.

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More about Sarah O’Connor

Sarah O’Connor received her degrees in chemistry from the University of Chicago (BSc) and MIT (PhD) and did her post-doctoral work at Harvard Medical School. She was Professor and Project Leader in Organic Chemistry at the John Innes Center (Norwich, UK) from 2011 to 2019. She has been director of the Department of Natural Product Biosynthesis at the Max Planck Institute of Chemical Ecology since the summer of 2019. She has received various awards throughout her career, including the Royal Society of Chemistry Perkin Prize (the first woman to receive this prestigious award (2019)) for organic chemistry; European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant (2018); Elected to the European Organization for Molecular Biology (2017), Wayne Medal (2013)

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