Indian Institute of Science(IISc) director Padmanabhan Balaram has stressed the need for a strong focus on natural products research.
He was delivering the keynote address at the the three-day international conference on chemical biology: Disease Mechanisms and Therapeutics, on the topic ‘Probing Peptide Diversity in Conus Venom’, organised by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) in association with Chemical Biology Society of India, here on Thursday.
He said young biochemists should focus on research on natural products as they had a lot of scope and use in the pharmaceutical field.
He said most commercial drugs in the developed world are based on natural products, reflecting the complex arsenals of pharmacologically active compounds that organisms use to interact with each other.
Research into the venoms of the predatory marine cone snails validates the great degree of pharmaceutical interest that rests on natural products, he said.
Although most success has been achieved by exploring natural product extracts composed mostly of smaller organic molecules, there is a growing realization that peptides are an underused source, the director said.
There are about 500 conus species in the world out which 77 are found in India, Balaram said and added that from a single species 37 conus peptides can be obtained.
Among the venomous species, cone snails within the Conidae family are unique for their ability to use a diverse array of small disulfide-bridged peptides to capture their prey. Small, disulfide-rich peptides that enrich Conus venoms have been shown to have considerable therapeutic potential and biomedical research utility.
Although the conopeptides may well be the most comprehensively characterized set of diverse pharmacologically active compounds, the cone snails, which comprise with its 500-700 species, may not be exceptional in the remarkable diversity of their pharmacological repertoire, he said.