In Plant-Derived Drugs Author: Steven Benowitz
Date: February 5, 1996

Historically, industry interest in plant-derived pharmaceuticals has waxed and waned. But greatly improved drug-screening technologies and a concern over disappearing Third World resources (and potential sources of medicines) have fueled a resurgence of drug-industry interest in natural products and plant-derived drugs in recent years.

James Miller Optimistic: James Miller of the Missouri Botanical Garden sees new technology as key to industry interest in plant-based pharmaceuticals. Photo: Steven Goldblatt Yet not everyone agrees that this renewed industry enthusiasm for going out to the field to seek plant-based drugs is widespread or long-term. Rather, they contend, labor-intensive plant-collection methods are being supplanted by newer, laboratory-based chemistry techniques. In fact, one executive at a major pharmaceutical firm discourages students from pursuing careers in natural products chemistry, believing that new technologies such as combinatorial chemistry are the wave of the future.

Every year, thousands of naturally...

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