Natural Product Sources

Natural products come from many types of organisms that inhabit the land and sea. While the NPDG works with many of these sources, a large portion of our work focuses on natural products made by fungi. Estimates suggest that several million fungi inhabit our planet, yet only a fraction of these species have been described (let alone examined for secondary metabolites). This situation presents a unique and exciting opportunity to identify novel organic compounds made by fungi that can be used to improve human health. We obtain fungi from many types of substrates including soils, plants, sediments, insects, and animals. The breadth of samples we examine for fungi has expanded greatly thanks in large part to the participation of our citizen team of citizen scientists. Once in the lab, our group uses diverse media and culture conditions to encourage the growth of new and/or uncommon fungi. Our microbial collection consists of over 65,000 isolates obtained from samples collected across the United States. These fungi have been grown in the lab and extracts prepared that contain their unique secondary metabolites. We and our collaborators use this one-of-a-kind resource in combination with biological assays to identify new bioactive compounds that have promising drug-like activities. Researchers interested in screening compounds and extracts from our library should contact the director for more information.  

Disease Targets

Disease is natural part of the human experience. Throughout history, humans have sought to control diseases using many tools and techniques including drugs developed from nature. Roughly half the drugs used in the world today can trace their origins back to natural sources. Natural products and their analogs have saved and improved the live of countless millions of people through their applications to the treatment of cancer, cardiovascular disease, infections, neurological disorders, and more.

At the NPDG, we are working to find new molecules from nature that have the potential to treat many types of yet-unsolved medical conditions including cancers and infectious diseases. Using tests developed in our lab, as well as through research partnerships with biologists and pharmacologist from around the country, we are actively exploring natural products from fungi and plants for new and useful molecules. Some of the compounds we have identified exhibit promising disease-inhibiting activities and are being used as tools to learn more about the biology of disease and to build new and better therapeutic substances.

petri plates

researcher with fungi petri plate