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Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

Where Science Meets Society

Gone fishin’ for natural products, with a new dragnet

­Nature contains a treasure trove of substances that could help fight human disease. Just this year, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine honored the development of drugs that fight parasites and malaria based on such “natural products.” But finding these molecules and discovering new chemical identities represents slow and painstaking work. This week in ACS Central Science, researchers report a new way to greatly speed up that process.

Genome mining effort discovers 19 new natural products in four years

It took two postdoctoral researchers, a lab technician, four undergraduates and their faculty advisors only four years – a blink of an eye in pharmaceutical terms – to scour a collection of 10,000 bacterial strains and isolate the genes responsible for making 19 unique, previously unknown phosphonate natural products, researchers report. Each of these products is a potential new drug. One of them has already been identified as an antibiotic.

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