Dr Lorenzo Caggiano is a Lecturer in Medicinal Chemistry within the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology and a Co-Chair of CR@B. His research focuses on synthesising small molecules for use in treatment of cancer.
Dr Caggiano is very interested in finding new methods to synthesise compounds, with the goal of making the same molecules found in nature in the lab. Natural products are a huge source of anticancer compounds, but they are typically very difficult to synthesise in a laboratory while plants and animals do so with ease using only what they have around them in the soil or the bottom of the sea. It is this puzzling situation that makes research into these compounds so interesting.
If compounds that are found in nature can be easily made in the lab, they can also be easily modified to make better drugs. This approach is taken by many researchers to improve on what nature has given us, because it is very unlikely that the first compound found is the best. Changes to the molecule can make a drug that is more selective, potent, and overall effective than those previously found.
One of Dr Caggiano's research areas is based on compounds found in daffodils (narcissus). These common flowers are known to kill other flowers near them using compounds they synthesise. Two of these compounds are pancratistatin and narciclasine, which have previously been very difficult to synthesise in the lab. Using novel methods, it is possible to synthesise analogous compounds to not only improve the therapeutic potential of the compounds but also to increase efficiency greatly.
It is hoped that this research will be of use in the development of new drugs for the treatment of cancer. The combination of inspiration from nature and scientific knowledge is key to creating new drugs with great potential applications. Dr Caggiano's research group is pushing this field forward, using simple and efficient methods to produce complex and potent new drugs.