Review

Drug Discovery and Natural Products: End of an Era or an Endless Frontier?

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Science  10 Jul 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5937, pp. 161-165
DOI: 10.1126/science.1168243

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Abstract

Historically, the majority of new drugs have been generated from natural products (secondary metabolites) and from compounds derived from natural products. During the past 15 years, pharmaceutical industry research into natural products has declined, in part because of an emphasis on high-throughput screening of synthetic libraries. Currently there is substantial decline in new drug approvals and impending loss of patent protection for important medicines. However, untapped biological resources, “smart screening” methods, robotic separation with structural analysis, metabolic engineering, and synthetic biology offer exciting technologies for new natural product drug discovery. Advances in rapid genetic sequencing, coupled with manipulation of biosynthetic pathways, may provide a vast resource for the future discovery of pharmaceutical agents.

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