Natural products in drug discovery: advances and opportunities

The International Natural Product Sciences Taskforce, Atanas G. Atanasov*, Sergey B. Zotchev, Verena M. Dirsch, Ilkay Erdogan Orhan, Maciej Banach, Judith M. Rollinger, Davide Barreca, Wolfram Weckwerth, Rudolf Bauer, Edward A. Bayer, Muhammed Majeed, Anupam Bishayee, Valery Bochkov, Günther K. Bonn, Nady Braidy, Franz Bucar, Alejandro Cifuentes, Grazia D’Onofrio, Michael BodkinMarc Diederich, Albena T. Dinkova-Kostova, Thomas Efferth, Khalid El Bairi, Nicolas Arkells, Tai Ping Fan, Bernd L. Fiebich, Michael Freissmuth, Milen I. Georgiev, Simon Gibbons, Keith M. Godfrey, Christian W. Gruber, Jag Heer, Lukas A. Huber, Elena Ibanez, Anake Kijjoa, Anna K. Kiss, Aiping Lyu, Francisco A. Macias, Mark J.S. Miller, Andrei Mocan, Rolf Müller, Ferdinando Nicoletti, George Perry, Valeria Pittalà, Luca Rastrelli, Michael Ristow, Gian Luigi Russo, Ana Sanches Silva, Daniela Schuster, Helen Sheridan, Claudiu T. Supuran*, Krystyna Skalicka-Woźniak, Leandros Skaltsounis, Eduardo Sobarzo-Sánchez, David S. Bredt, Hermann Stuppner, Antoni Sureda, Nikolay T. Tzvetkov, Rosa Anna Vacca, Bharat B. Aggarwal, Maurizio Battino, Francesca Giampieri, Michael Wink, Jean Luc Wolfender, Jianbo Xiao, Andy Wai Kan Yeung, Gérard Lizard, Michael A. Popp, Michael Heinrich, Ioana Berindan-Neagoe, Marc Stadler, Maria Daglia, Robert Verpoorte

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1803 Citations (Scopus)


Natural products and their structural analogues have historically made a major contribution to pharmacotherapy, especially for cancer and infectious diseases. Nevertheless, natural products also present challenges for drug discovery, such as technical barriers to screening, isolation, characterization and optimization, which contributed to a decline in their pursuit by the pharmaceutical industry from the 1990s onwards. In recent years, several technological and scientific developments — including improved analytical tools, genome mining and engineering strategies, and microbial culturing advances — are addressing such challenges and opening up new opportunities. Consequently, interest in natural products as drug leads is being revitalized, particularly for tackling antimicrobial resistance. Here, we summarize recent technological developments that are enabling natural product-based drug discovery, highlight selected applications and discuss key opportunities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-216
Number of pages17
JournalNature Reviews Drug Discovery
Issue number3
Early online date28 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery


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