Natural products in drug discovery: advances and opportunities

Abstract

Natural products and their structural analogues have historically made a major contribution to pharmacotherapy, especially for cancer and infectious diseases. Nevertheless, natural products also present challenges for drug discovery, such as technical barriers to screening, isolation, characterization and optimization, which contributed to a decline in their pursuit by the pharmaceutical industry from the 1990s onwards. In recent years, several technological and scientific developments — including improved analytical tools, genome mining and engineering strategies, and microbial culturing advances — are addressing such challenges and opening up new opportunities. Consequently, interest in natural products as drug leads is being revitalized, particularly for tackling antimicrobial resistance. Here, we summarize recent technological developments that are enabling natural product-based drug discovery, highlight selected applications and discuss key opportunities.

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Citation information: Atanasov, A.G., et al. Natural products in drug discovery: advances and opportunities. Nat Rev Drug Discov (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41573-020-00114-z