Opportunities for natural products in 21st century antibiotic discovery
Natural products and their derivatives are mainstays of our antibiotic drugs, but they are increasingly in peril. The combination of widespread multidrug resistance in once susceptible bacterial pathogens, disenchantment with natural products as sources of new drugs, lack of success using synthetic compounds and target-based discovery methods, along with shifting economic and regulatory issues, conspire to move investment in research and development away from the antibiotics arena. The result is a growing crisis in antibiotic drug discovery that threatens modern medicine. 21st century natural product research is perfectly positioned to fill the antibiotic discovery gap and bring new drug candidates to the clinic. Innovations in genomics and techniques to explore new sources of antimicrobial chemical matter are revealing new chemistry. Increasing appreciation of the value of narrow-spectrum drugs and re-examination of once discarded chemical scaffolds coupled with synthetic biology methods to generate new compounds and improve yields offer new strategies to revitalize once moribund natural product programs. The increasing awareness that the combination of antibiotics with adjuvants, non-antibiotic compounds that overcome resistance and enhance drug activity, can rescue older chemical scaffolds, and concepts such as blocking pathogen virulence present orthogonal strategies to traditional antibiotics. In all these areas, natural products offer chemical matter, shaped by natural selection, that is privileged in this therapeutic area. Natural product research is poised to regain prominence in delivering new drugs to solve the antibiotic crisis.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Novel Antibiotics and Antimicrobial Resistance