mSystems 2019 May 14;4(3). Epub 2019 May 14.
Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy and Center for Biomolecular Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA
The biosynthetic talent of microorganisms has been harnessed for drug discovery for almost a century. Microbial metabolites not only account for the majority of antibiotics available today, but have also led to anticancer, immunosuppressant, and cholesterol-lowering drugs. Yet, inherent challenges of natural products-including inadequate supply and difficulties with structure diversification-contributed to their deprioritization as a source of pharmaceuticals. In recent years, advances in genome sequencing and synthetic biology spurred a renewed interest in natural products. Bacterial genomes encode an abundance of natural products awaiting discovery. Synthetic biology can facilitate not only discovery and improvements in supply, but also structure diversification. This perspective highlights prior accomplishments in the field of synthetic biology and natural products by the scientific community at large, including research from our laboratory. We also provide our opinion as to where we need to go to continue advancing the field.