Medicines From Microbes

Sept. 2, 1999

Natural product researchers at the UA College of Pharmacy are expanding their research into potential drug discoveries from plants and microbes in Latin America with a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The five-year project holds promise for developing prescription medicines that may aid in the treatment of infectious diseases, cardiovascular, central nervous system and gastrointestinal disorders, cancers, and women's health problems. The project involves discovery and development of pharmaceuticals and crop-protection agents from plants of arid and semi-arid ecosystems in Chile, Argentina and Mexico. In addition to scientific study, the work promotes economic growth in areas where the plants are harvested, while conserving biological resources.

A unique component of the research will examine microbes, the microscopic organisms that grow on plants. Microbes are the source of antibiotics such as penicillin, but there has never been a detailed study of then in the dry lands of Latin America.

The principal investigator is Barbara Timmermann. Wyeth-Ayerst Research Laboratories is funding the study.