National Center for Natural Products Research
The University of Mississippi

Research Programs

Natural Product Discovery and Development Program

The Natural Product Discovery and Development Program is divided into two major areas of research: the Drug Discovery and Development Program and the Agrochemical Discovery and Development Program.

Drug Discovery and Development Program

Immune-EnhancementThe goal of the Drug Discovery and Development Program is to discover single entity and multicomponent bioactive natural products that may serve as leads for the development of new pharmaceuticals that address unmet therapeutic needs. Emphasis is on agents that control certain infectious diseases, cancer and immune disorders. Chemical constituents responsible for biological effects are identified and then either isolated and purified in the search for new single entity pharmaceutical ingredients or characterized and standardized in the search for new multicomponent botanical products. The Center builds on a strong foundation and history of excellence in natural products research at The University of Mississippi.

The discovery program starts with the collection of natural products from worldwide sources. Sources of natural products include plants, marine organisms and microorganisms.

The biological evaluation conducted in the Center is aimed at supporting the discovery of promising lead compounds by using a combination of mechanism-blind and mechanism-specific biological assays to detect agents that show novel activity against selected infectious diseases, cancer, and immunological targets. The Center also collaborates with many academic, government and private sector laboratories that run complimentary biological assays in support of the discovery program.

malariaWith a strong critical mass of expertise the Center is particularly well suited to undertake the bioassay-directed fractionation of plant, marine, and microbial extracts that exhibit promising biological activities. Promising leads are then developed either as single chemical entities or as multicomponent botanical ingredients. In the case of singe chemical entities, analogs are synthesized using computer-aided design, and structure activity relationship (SAR) studies and molecular modeling are used to optimize the desired pharmacological properties. Selected lead compounds are then progressed into an early development program where preclinical, chemical development, analytical preformulation, formulation and stability studies necessary for the successful filing of an Investigational New Drug Application (IND) are completed. These activities are done in collaboration with academic or private sector laboratories. In cases where a natural product sample contains several components that may act through different mechanisms of action within the body, and therefore act additively or synergistically to exert a therapeutic effect, early development work is based on standardization of the multicomponent mixture rather than isolation of individual constituents.

Current projects include the discovery and development of anti-fungal agents for life-threatening infections, anticancer agents that target specific critical processes in the cancer cell, antibiotics effective against bacteria that are resistant to many current antibiotics, new drugs for tuberculosis, malaria and other tropical parasitic diseases, antioxidants for cancer prevention, immunostimulatory botanicals, anti-inflammatory botanicals, immunomodulatory natural products, and the development of Dronabinol Hemisuccinate (THC) suppositories to control nausea due to chemotherapy and for pain management. Research is also conducted on the optimization of yields of desirable bioactive constituents in plants.

Agrochemical Discovery and Development Program

usdaThe goal of the Agrochemical Discovery and Development Program is to identify lead compounds for the development of environmentally benign and toxicologically safe pest management agents. This program is done in collaboration with scientists in the Natural Products Utilization Research Unit of the USDA Agricultural Research Service. Emphasis is on the discovery and development of agents that are useful in the control of pests affecting small niche crops.