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J Nat Prod. 2004 Dec;67(12):2141-53.

The role of natural product chemistry in drug discovery.

Author information

  • 1MerLion Pharmaceuticals, 1 Science Park Road, The Capricorn #05-01, Singapore Science Park II, 117528, Singapore.

Erratum in

  • J Nat Prod. 2006 Jan;69(1):172.


Although traditionally natural products have played an important role in drug discovery, in the past few years most Big Pharma companies have either terminated or considerably scaled down their natural product operations. This is despite a significant number of natural product-derived drugs being ranked in the top 35 worldwide selling ethical drugs in 2000, 2001, and 2002. There were 15 new natural product-derived drugs launched from 2000 to 2003, as well as 15 natural product-derived compounds in Phase III clinical trials or registration at the end of 2003. Recently, there has been a renewed interest in natural product research due to the failure of alternative drug discovery methods to deliver many lead compounds in key therapeutic areas such as immunosuppression, anti-infectives, and metabolic diseases. To continue to be competitive with other drug discovery methods, natural product research needs to continually improve the speed of the screening, isolation, and structure elucidation processes, as well addressing the suitability of screens for natural product extracts and dealing with issues involved with large-scale compound supply.

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