"Prostaglandins (PGs) are hormone-like chemical messengers that regulate a broad range of physiological activities, essential to life. Some synthetic analogues of prostaglandin are ‘billion dollar’ drugs e.g. latanoprost, which is used to treat glaucoma. The whole family of PG drugs (around 30 members) have combined annual sales of >$10bn pa. Furthermore a new dermatological application of PGs against reduction in adipose tissue (i.e. fat) discovered by Topokine is set to dwarf these numbers and, if successful in reaching the market, will require a 1000 fold increase in volume of production of PGs at the minimum. However, since these complex molecules cannot be isolated from natural sources in sufficient quantities, they have to be synthesised (20 steps) at considerable cost. We have developed a dramatically shorter route to this class of compounds (7 steps) which could substantially reduce the cost of manufacture of prostaglandins. Ours is likely to be the world-leading process for manufacture of prostaglandins providing we can make some improvements to the process to make the synthesis workable on large scale and thus attractive to pharmaceutical industries. The technology readiness level is perhaps 3-4/9, and needs to reach 6-7/9 to be taken up by industry. This Proof of Concept will take our synthesis through technology readiness levels 4-6."
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