Mining Malaysia's biodiversity for anti-cancer compounds
Therapeutic discovery from natural products requires, in simple terms, three skill-sets. The first is a capability to source natural materials in a reproducible, sustainable and efficient manner. The second requirement is an expertise in chemical fractionation and analysis, which enables separation of the biochemical components of the material into fractions and then individual constituents, which can be tested for therapeutic activity. The third skill-set is a means of conducting pre-clinical assessment for therapeutic activity, in a way that adds value to the bioactive components before they enter the expensive process of clinical trials, a stage at which the discovering organisation may find it most cost-effective to license the material to a pharmaceutical partner.
Together with more than ten local and international partners and their respective expertise in terrestrial plants, marine and microbial organisms, the Drug Discovery team has screened over 4000 samples since year 2004 to identify about 450 samples with promising anti-cancer activities. Using our basic chemical separation set-up as well as some standard preclinical assessment, we have already generated data that resulted in 1 patent and 5 international refereed journal articles (5 more manuscripts in preparation). With the additional infrastructure in our new laboratory, we will be able to analyse the remaining active extracts more efficiently and discover compounds with interesting pharmacology using our innovative secondary assays. We will also be able to add value to our discovery by carrying out the necessary proof-of-concept experiments before we can license on our discovery to the pharmaceutical industry.