Drug discovery from medicinal plants.
Current research in drug discovery from medicinal plants involves a multifaceted approach combining botanical, phytochemical, biological, and molecular techniques. Medicinal plant drug discovery continues to provide new and important leads against various pharmacological targets including cancer, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, malaria, and pain. Several natural product drugs of plant origin have either recently been introduced to the United States market, including arteether, galantamine, nitisinone, and tiotropium, or are currently involved in late-phase clinical trials. As part of our National Cooperative Drug Discovery Group (NCDDG) research project, numerous compounds from tropical rainforest plant species with potential anticancer activity have been identified. Our group has also isolated several compounds, mainly from edible plant species or plants used as dietary supplements, that may act as chemopreventive agents. Although drug discovery from medicinal plants continues to provide an important source of new drug leads, numerous challenges are encountered including the procurement of plant materials, the selection and implementation of appropriate high-throughput screening bioassays, and the scale-up of active compounds.