Prof. Tony K. M. Shing and Dr. Wai-Lung Ng has successfully synthesized a series of amino-carbasugars through a novel synthetic strategy. The new carbasugars act as potential drug molecules to treat Type 2 diabetes.
Under the guidance of Professor Shing, Dr. Ng used an inexpensive and readily available raw material, gluconolactone, to create these drug-like chemical compounds. A low-cost chemical synthesis methodology was also adopted. Thus, the cost of making these compounds is remarkably low.
One of the greatest challenges in this project was to figure out how to merge the two ‘drug fragments’ together. With the support from the Fulbright Research Award from the Lee-Hysan Foundation, Dr. Ng spent eight months at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to acquire a state-of-the-art technology called palladium-catalysed cross-coupling reaction, which functions as a ‘molecular super-glue’ in fusing two molecular fragments together. With the essential ‘synthetic tool’ in hand, the research team was able to create the carbasugar inhibitors that they designed.
‘Synthetic chemistry is both intellectually and physically challenging. Labour-intensive work in the laboratory is unavoidable. However, the research experience has been very enjoyable and fulfilling, especially when we successfully created those new molecules with pharmaceutical values,’ said Dr. Wai-Lung Ng.
‘It has been a long time since we first conceived the research idea back in 2010, and we are glad to see that our research work is now recognized internationally by scientists. More importantly, we have demonstrated the potential of using chemistry to make a positive impact on healthcare applications. Persistence and out-of-the-box thinking are the keys to the success of this project,’ said Professor Shing. ‘We plan to test our novel drug candidates in mouse models of diabetes. We believe that our efforts will be translated from bench-to-bedside eventually, and benefit patients with diabetes.’
This research was given the ‘best poster presentation’ award at the Oxford Synthesis Conference in the UK last summer. The team has had a strong track record in antidiabetic drug discovery. In 2013, they discovered and published their results on another class of carbasugar antidiabetic agents, also in Angewandte. Chemie. International.