Natural products in drug discovery: advances and opportunities

Atanas G. Atanasov (Lead / Corresponding author), Sergey B. Zotchev, Verena M. Dirsch, International Natural Product Sciences Taskforce, Claudiu T. Supuran (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1980 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
Early online date28 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Chemical biology
  • Transferases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery


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