Microbial natural products are the unique organic compounds produced by fungi and bacteria play important roles helping microorganisms adapt to their environment. Natural products exhibit novel structures and tend to be bioactive (e.g., function as enzyme inhibitors, cell signaling agents, antibiotics, and other roles), which makes these biomolecules an important resource for the development of new pharmaceuticals. Our lab focuses on using natural products from fungi and bacteria for the treatment of human diseases such as life-threatening infections and cancers. By combining the exploration of new environmental niches with novel techniques for controlling their production, we are uncovering highly unusual metabolites with promising therapeutic applications. This approach has yielded many promising natural products with medical applications. Our lab, the Natural Products Discovery Group, is part of the University of Oklahoma Institute for Natural Product Applications and Research Technologies (INPART – see our Institute’s website for additional details at http://inpart.ou.edu/), which is focused on the collaborative development of drug leads from natural sources. The Natural Products Discovery Group is actively recruiting new members to help in the search for novel drug leads. Prospective students in the areas of analytical and organic chemistry, as well as biochemistry are encouraged to contact us and find out more about current research opportunities.
Robert H. Cichewicz
Regents' Professor and INPART Director
Natural Products Drug Discovery
The fungal kingdom is a large and biologically diverse group that consists of millions of microorganisms living in virtually every habitable environment on earth. Fungi are a rich source of new and highly unusual organic compounds known as secondary metabolites (natural products) that have many important drug applications.
Many of the natural products investigated by the Natural Products Discovery Group arrest the growth and proliferation of cancer cells such as these pancreatic cells that are cultured in the lab. Finding new and safer leads for cancer chemotherapeutic applications from fungi is one of the lab’s focus areas.
Fungi are cultured in the lab on a variety of foods such as Cheerios breakfast cereal, which leads to the generation of new natural products.