• Question: What was the hardest part of making medicine?

    Asked by anon-192790 to Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin on 13 Nov 2018.
    • Photo: Dorothy Hodgkin

      Dorothy Hodgkin answered on 13 Nov 2018:

      I never actually made any medicine, sorry! Instead much of my research was focused on understanding the shapes of different molecules that are important in health – vitamin B12, the antibiotic penicillin, and the hormone insulin.

      Understanding the shapes or structures of these is important in understanding how they work and can be useful for other people who want to make similar types of molecules. For example, you might have heard about the rise of bacteria that are resistant to a lot of our antibiotics. Knowing the structure of penicillin and other naturally occuring antibiotics allows scientists to make new drugs that will work similarly to treat disease. Making those new medicines is difficult and takes a long time and is work that other scientists are still doing.

      Similarly my work on the structure of insulin has been used to develop better treatments for diabetes, but I didn’t myself make the medicines.