Principal Investigator, Edison Biotechnology Institute
Adjunct Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Undergraduate Student: Adam Wise
Bioactive natural products from plants, microbes, and fungi are extremely diverse substances that are often used as a complement or alternative to conventional medicines, with an international market of $75B. The use of natural products is especially increasing in the prevention and management of chronic and life-threatening illnesses for which current pharmaceutical approaches are inadequate. These include illnesses that are the subject of biological and clinical research in our group: diabetes, obesity, resistance to infection, and cancer. At the same time, increasing use of natural products is generating concern from both consumers and regulatory agencies for the critical assessment of their safety and efficacy and for quality control in their production. In order to capitalize on the potential to make a positive impact across this landscape, our lab has joined in the creation of a Natural Products Research Center to establish state-of-the-art capabilities to access and manipulate this diverse source of chemical substances and combine these capabilities with our existing expertise in drug discovery and development to identify innovative therapies.
We are approaching Natural Products by collaborating with other laboratories across OHIO and with businesses in the region to holistically address the progression of natural products from accessing source materials, to assessment of biological activity, to preclinical animal studies, to clinic trials, to manufacture and quality control of products, and finally progression to market. Our own lab currently specializes in measuring the effects of natural products on energy metabolism. Increasing glucose utilization is a strategy for managing diabetes, for example, and inhibiting glucose utilization is a strategy for cancer chemotherapy. Changes in energy metabolism are even detected by the immune system as an indicator of infection, and natural products that modulate energy pathways can be used to activate immune responses. We have currently established a protocol to identify multiple points of interaction of natural products across the energy metabolism pathway - glucose uptake, glycolysis, elements of the TCA cycle, and elements of the electron transport chain - in a single assay. Since there is extensive experience in evaluating inhibitors and activators of energy metabolism in the clinic, this assay provides an extremely efficient and rapid method to predict the clinical potential of new materials and to identify materials with promising new mechanisms of action.