Monday, November 10, 2014

Microorganism Unimpressed By Recent "Elegant" Total Synthesis

A Special Report to C&EN Onion by Correspondent SeeArrOh, who blogs at Just Like Cooking

La Jolla, CA

Chemists celebrated after publication of a landmark total synthesis - "an efficient 23-step protocol" - in last month's Nature. However, this week's Letters to the Editor brought together variety of single-celled creatures expressing their disappointment. 

"I've been making that for thousands of years," remarked a dinoflagellate from the coast of Mexico, "and I only use sugars, sunlight, and water as my reagents. What the heck is a boronate ester, anyway?"

Soil microbes from a remote Pacific island chimed in: "We live our entire lives underfoot, with less than a grade-school education, but when we're pressured? We toss some polyketides past a few enzymes, and boom! Cancer cures, biofilms, antibiotics, anything you want, easy as pie."

A fungus from a tree in the author's backyard added: "If only he'd taken more walks outside, he could have cultured my buddies and found the next great pain reliever. Too bad he loves washing glassware and moving protecting groups so much."


  1. Yes, but it didn't take the grad student >5e8 years to make it [or, rather, to evolve the glassware and reagents so (s)he could make it]. Though if (s)he had to, that would definitely make grad school much longer and worse:
    "If you don't evolve that P450 for the remote oxidation sequence by next week, I'll find another postdoc who will!
    "Mutate faster, idiot!"
    "I don't care if the byproduct is toxic - that what you have a liver for. Chlorinate that methyl or you can go in the basement and sit in the dark until you can make your enzymes behave."