Small molecule natural products have remained the most consistent source of diverse structures exhibiting remarkable pharmacological properties, and have provided majority of "first-in-class" drugs for untreatable diseases; currently used 60% of anti-cancer and 75% of anti-infective drugs owe their origin in natural products. A number of life- saving drugs in current use in other therapeutic areas are also natural products derived or inspired (e.g. opiates and statins). Besides being remarkably rich source of drugs, many privileged natural products (e g. cytochalasins, monensin, brefeldin, rapamycin. FK-506, forskolin etc) have enabled fundamental advances in cell biology, immunology and synthetic chemistry. Among the primary sources for the natural products include medicinal plants, fungi, bacteria and marine species. However, much of the Indian biodiversity (terrestrial and marine) remain unexplored with greater opportunities for biotechnological interventions (directed biosynthesis and pathway engineering) and new drug discovery. We at CSIR-IIIM have integrated the natural-products chemistry with our strong medicinal chemistry and biotechnology programs in the disease areas of cancer, inflammation and multi-drug resistant infection, and initiated efforts towards questions related to chemical ecology and stem cell biology. This presentation will discuss some of our recent work on NCE discovery, botanical drug development and chemical biology.
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