Auckland Prof Named UN Science Laureate

Auckland University professor Margaret Brimble has been named one of the world’s top five woman scientists by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). As Laureate for the Asia-Pacific region, Brimble received the US$100,000 L’Oreal-UNESCO prize for her contribution to the synthesis of complex natural products, especially shellfish toxins. Brimble set up NZ’s first degree in organic and medicinal chemistry at Auckland University in 1999. “What we do is we look to nature to find new active ingredients or molecules to develop into new medicines,” she explained in the NZ Herald. “One example is a compound produced by fungi which kills the bacterium that causes infected ulcers. The compound occurs in nature. It is produced by the fungi but only in small amounts. So we then try and make that compound in the laboratory and make structure analogues similar to that compound that may be better – and that’s the way you develop new medicines.” According to Brimble, NZ could become a powerhouse for pharmaceutical research if enough time and money is invested: “All we have to do is get one successful drug on the market and we’re there … the first drug for a neuroprotective agent will be a billion-dollar product.”

Tags: L'Oreal  Margaret Brimble  medicinal chemistry  New Zealand Herald  UNESCO  University of Auckland