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New drugs faster from natural compounds: A UC San Diego breakthrough
Date:7/13/2009

Researchers have invented computational tools to decode and rapidly determine whether natural compounds collected in oceans and forests are newor if these pharmaceutically promising compounds have already been described and are therefore not patentable.

This University of California, San Diego advance will finally enable scientists to rapidly characterize ring-shaped nonribosomal peptides (NRPs)a class of natural compounds of intense interest due to their potential to yield or inspire new pharmaceuticals. The study will be published in the July 13 online issue of journal Nature Methods.

"These advances will speed the process by which we discover and describe new and biologically active molecules from organisms such as marine cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae. This, in turn, will accelerate the timeline for bringing new experimental therapies into clinical application," said William Gerwick, an author on the paper and a professor with the UC San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine and the UCSD Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. (Read about Gerwick's work to discover drugs and protect Panama's natural and cultural resources at: http://explorations.ucsd.edu/Features/2009/Discovering_Diversity/images/07_2009_Feature.pdf )

Nonribosomal peptides (NRPs) often serve as chemical defenses for the bacteria that manufacture them. Starting from penicillin, NRPs have an unparalleled track record in pharmacology: most anti-cancer and anti-microbial agents are natural products or their derivatives. However, it is currently difficult, time-consuming and costly to determine the molecular structure of NRPs which, by definition, are not directly inscribed in the genomes of the organisms that produce them.

"NRPs are one of the last bastions of ph
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Contact: Daniel Kane
dbkane@ucsd.edu
858-534-3262
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert  

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