Department of Natural Product Biosynthesis
Director Sarah O´Connor
Plant natural products are of high ecological, evolutionary and pharmaceutical importance. In our group we try to elucidate their biosynthetic pathways and structures and to use this knowledge to produce novel metabolic pathways and substances in model organisms. Our focus is on alkaloids and iridoids.
Plants and microorganisms produce an enormous number of complex molecules that fulfill important roles outside of their central metabolism. These so-called "secondary metabolites" play important roles in hundreds of functions in the ecosystems in which they naturally occur. In addition, many of these substances exhibit valuable medicinal effects and are therefore used in both traditional and modern medicine - from beauty treatments to cancer therapy.
In our research group, we develop methods to elucidate the biosynthesis of these substances in the organism and to genetically engineer specialized and sometimes novel metabolic pathways. These tools help us to understand the fundamental chemical, biological and evolutionary processes that give rise to these substances. In addition, we are developing biological platforms that enable their inexpensive and rapid production in model organisms.