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The world is made of sugar and dirt

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Victoria University of Wellington

Rutherford Lecture Theatre 1

Pipitea Campus

Wellington, 6012

New Zealand

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A public lecture by Professor Ben Davis, Department of Chemistry, University of Oxford

Atom-for-atom sugar molecules contain more information, more complexity and more power than any other component of life. They should be great things to look at—perhaps even the holy grail of biology. Yet, they are neglected molecules.

One reason scientists have struggled to get to grips with sugars is that the normal methods of biology don’t work. This is where chemistry can come to rescue. Chemistry can, in principle, build almost anything—any of the molecules of biology, including the sugars. Until recently this has been seen as a tough, some would say slightly crazy, way to do things.

In this lecture you will hear about some of the ways we have used chemistry to ask some useful questions about sugars in biology.

  • What do sugars do in Tuberculosis?
  • How do bugs make their protective coats using sugars?
  • Could sugars be used to make a cell from scratch?

These questions then lead to bigger questions: What makes a cell live? Can we kill bugs in new ways?



Professor Ben Davis received his D.Phil. in carbohydrate chemistry from the University of Oxford, followed by a postdoc at the University of Toronto, exploring protein chemistry and biocatalysis. He took up a lectureship at the University of Durham, before returning to the University of Oxford where he was promoted to Full Professor in 2005. His group's research centres on the chemical understanding and exploitation of biomolecular function (synthetic biology, chemical biology and chemical medicine), with an emphasis on carbohydrates and proteins.

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Victoria University of Wellington

Rutherford Lecture Theatre 1

Pipitea Campus

Wellington, 6012

New Zealand

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