Tuesday, February 22, 2005

231: Using evolution to find new drugs

Taxol Pioneer Calls for Greater Emphasis on Natural Products Research | Science Blog:

The RTI International researcher credited with discovering the cancer-fighting drug Taxol is calling for greater investment in natural products research following the discovery reported last month that Taxol slows the spread of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Mansukh C. Wani, who with his co-investigator the late Dr. Monroe E. Wall identified and published the structure of Taxol in 1971, said the scientific community is "simply not doing enough research related to natural compounds and as a consequence could be delaying discoveries."

"Less than one-tenth of the world’s plant species have been assessed for pharmaceutical potential," Wani said. "Natural products research is a much longer-term investment, but the potential for finding new ways to treat disease -- and not just one disease as we have seen in the Taxol case -- is enormous."
Which species would you look at first? The ones whose relatives were most pharmacologically active. Why? Because they share evolutionary novelties that produce drugs.