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New Crops News, Spring 1994, vol. 4 no. 1

Taxol Synthesized

Two recent groups have announced a complete synthesis of taxol, the extract of the Pacific yew tree that has been effective against breast cancer. The synthesis of taxol was announced by groups led by K.D. Nicolaou of the Scripps Research Institute and Robert Holton of Florida State University. At this stage, neither group's method is likely to be commercially viable since each takes upwards of 30 steps. Holton's technique, however, yields synthetic taxol equivalent to 40% of the starting material. This breakthough permits the redesigning of taxol to overcome some of the problems of the natural compound. At the present time synthetic taxol might remain a research tool even after the synthetic techniques have been refined if it turns out to be cheaper to make the commercial forms from natural sources.

Science 263:911; 1994