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Project aims to revive natural product discovery

April 23, 2019 / Nicholas Vasi

The mid-20th century was the golden age of natural product discovery. Scientists discovered ground-breaking drugs, like penicillin and tetracycline, from sources in nature. But as the search for natural products continued, pharmaceutical companies kept finding the same products over and over again. By the early 2000s, most of these companies shut down their natural product discovery programs. At the same time, the era of genomics emerged. Instead of looking for natural products, scientists were now able to use genetic information to understand how natural products were made. This brought success in discovering new natural products, but only on a very small scale. Now, a new project aims to discover new natural products on a large scale by using synthetic biology and automation.