US researcher and a Nobel laureate hopes to manufacture plentiful anti-flu drugs at a cheaper cost. Tamiflu is the anti-flu drug and Elias Corey has work out the method while relaxing at home on a weekend. The Swiss manufacturer Roche has manufactured the drug and given it to World Health Organization to prevent any outbreak of the disease. But the starting material (shikimic acid) for the production cycle is a compound extracted from the plant star anise. This is grown in mountain provinces in southwest China.
The compound at its heart has a ring of carbon molecules that makes a very particular template on which the rest of the drug can be built. The plant has to be harvested once a year, and Tamiflu production is now taking up most of the crop. Professor Corey won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1990 for his successes in devising lab-bench approaches to synthesizing natural compounds. He used an old approach were mixtures of the useful and useless forms of complex molecules are formed, and then separated later. But it is a wasteful and time-consuming process. Hence he came to the rescue of the Roche's problem. In just about eight weeks time the whole process had been worked through and refined, and the product compared with genuine Tamiflu. The entire process elaborated in the online edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.