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Chemistry Drives Solutions to Our Planet’s Largest Problems: COVID-19 and Beyond

Dr. Joshua Pierce shares his story as a chemist, and then describes the ways in which new treatments are being discovered.

Published onJun 22, 2022
Chemistry Drives Solutions to Our Planet’s Largest Problems: COVID-19 and Beyond
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Abstract

Note that this video was recorded in 2020, so some of the content about COVID-19 reflects the state of knowledge at that time, but is no longer accurate according to today's knowledge.

Imagine a world where a small cut would often lead to death, or one in which cancer and diabetes were untreatable. Where every virus creates a pandemic of the likes of COVID-19. Where food supply was extremely limited due to pests and invasive weeds. Imagine a world where LCD screens, solar energy and adhesives were never developed.

The world you have imagined is a world without chemistry -- and this just scratches the surface of chemistry’s role in the world around us.

Every modern hunter-gatherer culture on Earth uses medicines from the wild environment for treatment. The Chacobo of Bolivia, for instance, rely on hundreds of different plant and animal species to treat different maladies. Just as with much of modern Western medicine, a key element of finding such natural medicines has been trial and error. Testing this. Testing that. But the ability to find new drugs has become more refined and has dramatically sped up, and the basic sciences including chemistry and biology are key to this field. 

Here, Dr. Joshua Pierce shares his story as a chemist, and then describes the ways in which new treatments are being discovered. He highlights the challenges and benefits of new approaches, with a specific focus on how one new potential treatment for Covid-19, a drug with the potential to prevent those with the disease from getting so very sick, was found and what will happen next with its development.

Joshua Pierce, Ph.D., obtained his B.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh and completed postdoctoral studies at Scripps Research Institute. Together these research experiences provided an appreciation of the important role molecules can play in medicinal chemistry and drug discovery. In 2012, Dr. Dr. Pierce joined the Department of Chemistry at NC State and has been focused on addressing problems at the chemistry/biology interface. In addition to developing his research program he has leadership roles in the Comparative Medicine Institute where he is co-director, and he recently became the director of the Integrative Sciences Initiative in 2021. In 2018 Dr. Pierce founded Synoxa Sciences, Inc. to pursue the commercialization of antibiotics. 

Chemistry Drives Solutions to Our Planet’s Largest Problems: COVID-19 and Beyond (Joshua Pierce)

This video was originally produced for an audience of entering first-year and transfer students at NC State University as a part of an interdisciplinary experience. It is available for noncommercial reuse under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial 4.0 License, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.

TRANSCRIPT

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

  1. Book: The Billion Dollar Molecule: One Company’s Quest for the Perfect Drug. "Join journalist Barry Werth as he pulls back the curtain on Vertex, a start-up pharmaceutical company, and witness firsthand the intense drama being played out in the pioneering and hugely profitable field of drug research."

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