Natural products research: The role of organic and medicinal chemistry (4 h)

Organic chemistry and pharmacognosy have long been an almost unique discipline, with natural products acting as a major driver of advancement for both areas. With the advent of molecular assays, the development of spectroscopy, and the growing sophistication of current synthetic organic chemistry, a comprehensive technical expertise in both fields has become impossible and natural products research has become sectarian and articulated in several sub-disciplines. In this scenario, the role of organic chemistry has undergone a change, moving from a tool of structure elucidation to a mean to manipulate natural products structures and explore their associated biological space. In this context, organic chemistry is metamorphosing into medicinal chemistry, but the transition is essentially molecular in nature, and has been well managed, with organic chemistry retaining a critical role in the development of a scalable synthesis for natural products difficult and/or expensive to obtain by isolation. On the other hand, there is growing evidence that, rather than magic bullets, natural products are magic shotguns, targeting a host of molecular end-points that are often part of homeostatic feed-back loops difficult to perturb with focused monomolecular agents. In this context, mixtures of products like extracts might play an important role but working with mixtures rather than monomolecular agents is a challenging task that is only now coming of age.


F. Pollastro


organic chemistry, medicinal chemistry