Pharmacognosy, or Natural Products Research, examines the chemistry, origins, and biological roles of compounds from unique natural sources. These sources include plants, animals, fungi, and microbes from terrestrial, freshwater, and marine environments across the planet.
The origin of natural products research dates back to the earliest drug discovery efforts from terrestrial plants, including those from the rain forests, often based on the herbal remedies of indigenous peoples. Much of the early work focused on compound isolation, structure elucidation, and development as pharmaceuticals. However, natural products research has undergone significant changes in recent years, and today represents a highly interdisciplinary science that often involves research aimed at understanding the biosynthesis of these compounds using state-of-the-art molecular biology and analytical chemistry approaches.
Natural products research often represents the critical first step in the drug discovery pipeline. But it also leads to other forms of biotechnology, including molecular probes for use in cell biology, pest control agents for the agriculture industry, and even chemical additives for the cosmetic industry, as well as dietary supplement science. In addition, natural product research provides important information on the ecological roles of these compounds within source populations that addresses conservation and management strategies, and provides potential pharmacological insights that further drug discovery efforts.
Pharmacognosy is one of four major areas of pharmaceutical education within the Department of BioMolecular Sciences.