Small molecules are a pillar of human health, making up a majority of the drugs we have in our healthcare arsenal. Many of these drugs are obtained by utilizing synthetic chemistry to modify the composition of some small molecule found in nature. Derivatives of tropane alkaloids, for example, alleviate neuromuscular disorders and are derived from a chemical found in nightshade plants. However, sourcing these plants have become exceedingly difficult as climate change, the pandemic, and geopolitics ravage the supply chain. Looking to overcome these challenges, Prashanth recapitualed the biochemical pathway that makes these tropane alkaloids in yeast. In the most complex feat of metabolic engineering to date, Prashanth can make these life-saving drugs in a bioreactor, insulated from the issues that make them expensive and in short-supply.
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