Current status of natural product screening activities in Japan with emphasis on our experience

Toru Okuda, Kazuyoshi Yajima*, Kozo Yamamoto**, Kyoko Watanabe***, and Kiyoko Ishii (Ueki)

*Fujisawa Pharmaceutical Co., Advanced Technology Platform Research Laboratory,  **Tanabe Seiyaku Co. Ltd., Discovery Research Laboratory,  ***Tamagawa University, Faculty of Agriculture

        Blockbuster drugs such as mevalotin and tacrolims led pharmaceutical industry toward natural product screening programs other than antibiotics in Japan as well as the other countries in 1980s.  Since then, technologies for drug discovery process have been highly advanced and diversified.  Natural product screening (NPS) activities rather compete with high-throughput screening (HTS), combinatorial chemistry and genomics.  Recently, we took a survey on NPS activities by sending a questionnaire to various organizations mainly in Japan.  According to the replies, seventy-three percent of them are conducting NPS programs.  Actinomycetes and fungi are most preferably used as screening sources, and a number of organizations increased the ratio of fungi in their sources.  Among fungi, ascomycetes, mitosporic fungi, soil fungi, litter fungi are their target taxa.  Their isolation strategies are varied.  We also sought new approaches for isolation of fungi.  One is to use an automated washing/filtering system.  The other is the use of electrolyzed solution for isolating fungi from plant tissues.  Sample acquisition strategies including isolation sources, microbial strains, and fermentation extracts are also varied from company to company.  The Convention on Biological Diversity has impacted how they acquire biological materials.  In this context, the national biological resource center soon established in Japan is expected to play an important role.

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