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Curr Opin Chem Biol. 2004 Jun;8(3):271-80.

Natural products and combinatorial chemistry: back to the future.

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  • 1Merck Santé, 115 Avenue Lacassagne, 69003 Lyon, France.


The introduction of high-throughput synthesis and combinatorial chemistry has precipitated a global decline in the screening of natural products by the pharmaceutical industry. Some companies terminated their natural products program, despite the unproven success of the new technologies. This was a premature decision, as natural products have a long history of providing important medicinal agents. Furthermore, they occupy a complementary region of chemical space compared with the typical synthetic compound library. For these reasons, the interest in natural products has been rekindled. Various approaches have evolved that combine the power of natural products and organic chemistry, ranging from the combinatorial total synthesis of analogues to the exploration of natural product scaffolds and the design of completely unnatural molecules that resemble natural products in their molecular characteristics.

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