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Concept: Natural product


Medicinal plants have historically proven their value as a source of molecules with therapeutic potential, and nowadays still represent an important pool for the identification of novel drug leads. In the past decades, pharmaceutical industry focused mainly on libraries of synthetic compounds as drug discovery source. They are comparably easy to produce and resupply, and demonstrate good compatibility with established high throughput screening (HTS) platforms. However, at the same time there has been a declining trend in the number of new drugs reaching the market, raising renewed scientific interest in drug discovery from natural sources, despite of its known challenges. In this survey, a brief outline of historical development is provided together with a comprehensive overview of used approaches and recent developments relevant to plant-derived natural product drug discovery. Associated challenges and major strengths of natural product-based drug discovery are critically discussed. A snapshot of the advanced plant-derived natural products that are currently in actively recruiting clinical trials is also presented. Importantly, the transition of a natural compound from a “screening hit” through a “drug lead” to a “marketed drug” is associated with increasingly challenging demands for compound amount, which often cannot be met by re-isolation from the respective plant sources. In this regard, existing alternatives for resupply are also discussed, including different biotechnology approaches and total organic synthesis. While the intrinsic complexity of natural product-based drug discovery necessitates highly integrated interdisciplinary approaches, the reviewed scientific developments, recent technological advances, and research trends clearly indicate that natural products will be among the most important sources of new drugs also in the future.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Clinical trial, Drug discovery, Medicinal chemistry, Natural product, High-throughput screening, Natural products


Phytoestrogens constitute an attractive research topic due to their estrogenic profile and their biological involvement in woman’s health. Therefore, numerous studies are currently performed in natural products chemistry area aiming at the discovery of novel phytoestrogens. The main classes of phytoestrogens are flavonoids (flavonols, flavanones), isoflavonoids (isoflavones, coumestans), lignans, stilbenoids as well as miscellaneous chemical groups abundant in several edible and/or medicinal plants, belonging mostly to the Leguminosae family. As for other bioactives, the detection of new structures and more potent plant-derived phytoestrogens typically follows the general approaches currently available in the natural product discovery process. Plant-based approaches selected from traditional medicine knowledge and bioguided concepts are routinely employed. However, these approaches are associated with serious disadvantages such as time-consuming, repeated, and labor intensive processes as well as lack of specificity and reproducibility. In recent years, the natural products chemistry became more technology-driven, and several different strategies have been developed. Structure-oriented procedures and miniaturized approaches employing advanced hyphenated analytical platforms have recently emerged. They facilitate significantly not only the discovery of novel phytoestrogens but also the dereplication procedure leading to the anticipation of major drawbacks in natural products discovery. In this review, apart from the traditional concepts followed in phytochemistry for the discovery of novel biologically active compounds, recent applications in the field of extraction, analysis, fractionation, and identification of phytoestrogens will be discussed. Moreover, specific methodologies combining identification of actives and biological evaluation in parallel, such as liquid chromatography-biochemical detection, frontal affinity chromatography-mass spectrometry and pulsed ultrafiltration-MS will also be presented. Finally, miniaturized methods (microchip and biosensor) will be also discussed.With the current review, we attempt to give a wide and holistic overview of the different approaches which could be employed in the discovery of new phytoestrogens. On the other hand, we anticipate to attract more scientists to the area of phytoestrogens and to indicate the need of multidisciplinary concepts.

Concepts: Natural selection, Biology, Chemistry, Fabaceae, Flavonoid, Natural product, Natural products, Attractive


Traditional drug discovery approaches are mainly relied on the observed phenotypic changes following administration of a plant extract, drug candidate or natural product. Recently, target-based approaches are becoming more popular. The present study aimed to identify the cellular targets of crocin, the bioactive dietary carotenoid present in saffron, using an affinity-based method.

Concepts: Drug discovery, Medicinal chemistry, Natural product, Crocin, Crocetin


Covering: 1980 to December 2010Over the past 30 years, approximately 140 papers have been published on marine natural products chemistry and related research from the Fiji Islands. These came about from studies starting in the early 1980s by the research groups of Crews at the University of California Santa Cruz, Ireland at the University of Utah, Gerwick from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the University of California at San Diego and the more recent groups of Hay at the Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT) and Jaspars from the University of Aberdeen. This review covers both known and novel marine-derived natural products and their biological activities. The marine organisms reviewed include invertebrates, plants and microorganisms, highlighting the vast structural diversity of compounds isolated from these organisms. Increasingly during this period, natural products chemists at the University of the South Pacific have been partners in this research, leading in 2006 to the development of a Centre for Drug Discovery and Conservation (CDDC).

Concepts: Biology, Organism, Life, Species, Oceanography, Natural product, Marine biology, University of California, San Diego


Palladium-catalyzed cyclization of imines has been developed to construct the extremely rare 3H-pyrrolo[2,3-c]quinoline ring system for diversity oriented first total synthesis of antimalarial marine natural product Aplidiopsamine A as well as synthesis of Marinoquinoline A and potential natural product hybrid NCLite-M1.

Concepts: Total synthesis, Paclitaxel total synthesis, Integer, Imine, Natural product, Paclitaxel, Multiplication, Natural products


The identification of a drug candidate and its structural determination is the most important step in the process of the drug discovery and for this, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is one of the most selective analytical techniques. Area covered: The present review illustrates the various perspectives of absolute quantitative (1)H NMR spectroscopy in drug discovery and development. It deals with the fundamentals of quantitative NMR (qNMR), the physiochemical properties affecting qNMR, and the latest referencing techniques used for quantification. The precise application of qNMR during various stages of drug discovery and development, namely natural product research, drug quantitation in dosage forms, drug metabolism studies, impurity profiling and solubility measurements is elaborated. To achieve this, the authors explore the literature of NMR in drug discovery and development between 1963 and 2015. It also takes into account several other reviews on the subject. Expert opinion: qNMR experiments are used for drug discovery and development processes as it is a non-destructive, versatile and robust technique with high intra and interpersonal variability. However, there are several limitations also. qNMR of complex biological samples is incorporated with peak overlap and a low limit of quantification and this can be overcome by using hyphenated chromatographic techniques in addition to NMR.

Concepts: Spectroscopy, Pharmacology, Nuclear magnetic resonance, NMR spectroscopy, Carbon-13 NMR, Magnetic resonance imaging, Analytical chemistry, Natural product


Wnt signaling is a fundamental pathway that drives embryonic development and is essential for stem cell maintenance and tissue homeostasis. Dysregulation of Wnt signaling is linked to various diseases and a constitutively active Wnt pathway drives tumorigenesis. Thus, disruption of the Wnt response is deemed a promising strategy for cancer drug discovery. However, only few clinical drug candidates that target Wnt signaling are available so far and new small molecules modulators of Wnt-related processes are in high demand. Here we describe the synthesis of a withanolide-inspired compound collection generated using a pregnenolone-derived -lactone as the key intermediate which was transformed into a δ-lactone appended to the D-ring of the steroidal scaffold. This natural product-inspired compound library contained potent inhibitors of Wnt signaling that act upstream of the destruction complex to stabilize Axin in a tankyrase-independent manner.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Cancer, Chemistry, Chemical substance, The Key, Drug discovery, Natural product, Wnt signaling pathway


Phytochemicals of medicinal plants encompass a diverse chemical space for drug discovery. India is rich with a flora of indigenous medicinal plants that have been used for centuries in traditional Indian medicine to treat human maladies. A comprehensive online database on the phytochemistry of Indian medicinal plants will enable computational approaches towards natural product based drug discovery. In this direction, we present, IMPPAT, a manually curated database of 1742 Indian Medicinal Plants, 9596 Phytochemicals, And 1124 Therapeutic uses spanning 27074 plant-phytochemical associations and 11514 plant-therapeutic associations. Notably, the curation effort led to a non-redundant in silico library of 9596 phytochemicals with standard chemical identifiers and structure information. Using cheminformatic approaches, we have computed the physicochemical, ADMET (absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, toxicity) and drug-likeliness properties of the IMPPAT phytochemicals. We show that the stereochemical complexity and shape complexity of IMPPAT phytochemicals differ from libraries of commercial compounds or diversity-oriented synthesis compounds while being similar to other libraries of natural products. Within IMPPAT, we have filtered a subset of 960 potential druggable phytochemicals, of which majority have no significant similarity to existing FDA approved drugs, and thus, rendering them as good candidates for prospective drugs. IMPPAT database is openly accessible at: .

Concepts: Pharmacology, Medicine, Ayurveda, Therapy, Drug discovery, Natural product, Cheminformatics, Online database


New methods and strategies for the direct functionalization of C-H bonds are beginning to reshape the field of retrosynthetic analysis, affecting the synthesis of natural products, medicines and materials. The oxidation of allylic systems has played a prominent role in this context as possibly the most widely applied C-H functionalization, owing to the utility of enones and allylic alcohols as versatile intermediates, and their prevalence in natural and unnatural materials. Allylic oxidations have featured in hundreds of syntheses, including some natural product syntheses regarded as “classics”. Despite many attempts to improve the efficiency and practicality of this transformation, the majority of conditions still use highly toxic reagents (based around toxic elements such as chromium or selenium) or expensive catalysts (such as palladium or rhodium). These requirements are problematic in industrial settings; currently, no scalable and sustainable solution to allylic oxidation exists. This oxidation strategy is therefore rarely used for large-scale synthetic applications, limiting the adoption of this retrosynthetic strategy by industrial scientists. Here we describe an electrochemical C-H oxidation strategy that exhibits broad substrate scope, operational simplicity and high chemoselectivity. It uses inexpensive and readily available materials, and represents a scalable allylic C-H oxidation (demonstrated on 100 grams), enabling the adoption of this C-H oxidation strategy in large-scale industrial settings without substantial environmental impact.

Concepts: Enzyme, Redox, Electrochemistry, Hydrogenation, Chemical synthesis, Allyl alcohol, Oxidation state, Natural product


Natural products have had an immense influence on science and have directly led to the introduction of many drugs. Organic chemistry, and its unique ability to tailor natural products through synthesis, provides an extraordinary approach to unlock the full potential of natural products. In this Review, an approach based on natural product derived fragments is presented that can successfully address some of the current challenges in drug discovery. These fragments often display significantly reduced molecular weights, reduced structural complexity, a reduced number of synthetic steps, while retaining or even improving key biological parameters such as potency or selectivity. Examples from various stages of the drug development process up to the clinic are presented. In addition, this process can be leveraged by recent developments such as genome mining, antibody-drug conjugates, and computational approaches. All these concepts have the potential to identify the next generation of drug candidates inspired by natural products.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Chemical reaction, Organic synthesis, Chemistry, Drug discovery, Drug development, Computational complexity theory, Natural product