• About the Drug Synthesis Zone

    Automated apparatus to prepare pharamceutical liquid oral doses | Image via Wikimedia/Flagrange

    Automated apparatus to prepare pharamceutical liquid oral doses | Image via Wikimedia/Flagrange

    Scientists are frequently coming up with new treatments for various kinds of illnesses, many of which will be a new drug.

    The first part of the process of developing a new drug is to find the main compound or molecule which works against a particular disease. The next step is to make sure that this compound isn’t harmful to the body. When they think that the drug is safe they begin human clinical trials. Even though everything looks good so far, the scientists still need to make sure that there are no unexpected side-effects from the drug and that the drug does actually work. If the drug can be proved to work then the company that paid for the development work will package it up and sell it around the world.

    But where does this first compound comes from? And how do scientists scale the process up to produce large quantities of it, so it is widely available? Medicines need to be manufactured in an efficient and reproducible way, so that the aspirin we took to help us with cold last winter is exactly the same as the aspirin we might need this one. We’ll talk to chemists about how they synthesize drugs to diagnose and treat disease.

    In this zone we’ll talk to a scientist who turns bacteria into miniature pharmaceutical factories and makes them to produce important drugs. There is also a scientist working in big collaboration to hunt down treatments for deadly diseases, and another who synthesises lots of different molecules. There is a scientist making materials to repair body injuries and another creating little machines that can be used to see how our body works on the inside.