Confronting the challenges of natural product-based antifungal discovery

Chem Biol. 2011 Feb 25;18(2):148-64. doi: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2011.01.009.


Starting with the discovery of penicillin, the pharmaceutical industry has relied extensively on natural products (NPs) as an unparalleled source of bioactive small molecules suitable for antibiotic development. However, the discovery of structurally novel and chemically tractable NPs with suitable pharmacological properties as antibiotic leads has waned in recent decades. Today, the repetitive "rediscovery" of previously known NP classes with limited antibiotic lead potential dominates most industrial efforts. This limited productivity, exacerbated by the significant financial and resource requirements of such activities, has led to a broad de-emphasis of NP research by most pharmaceutical companies, including most recently Merck. Here we review our strategies--both technological and philosophical--in addressing current antifungal discovery bottlenecks in target identification and validation and how such efforts may improve NP-based antimicrobial discoveries when aligned with NP screening and dereplication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antifungal Agents / isolation & purification
  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology*
  • Biological Products / isolation & purification
  • Biological Products / pharmacology*
  • Candida albicans / drug effects
  • Candida albicans / growth & development
  • Candida albicans / metabolism
  • Drug Discovery / methods*
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Humans


  • Antifungal Agents
  • Biological Products