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Natural Products

In the history of drug development natural products have been the most productive source of lead chemicals for the development of new medicines. Over a 100 products, that have come from either plant or microbial sources, are in clinical development, particularly as anti-cancer and anti -infective drugs. In TCD the fundamental goal of our research in the Natural products Drug Discovery Group (NPDDG) is the isolation of new chemical compounds and the evaluation of their pharmacological potential as novel therapeutic agents for a range of diseases.

Head of Research Group

Members of the Research Group

TCD Collaborators

  • Prof. Padraic Fallon (PF, TCD)
  • Prof. Angus Bell (AB, TCD)
  • Assoc. Prof. Carlos Medina (CM, TCD)
  • Dr. Graham Pidgeon (GP, TCD)
  • Dr. Fiona Walsh (FW, TCD)

National & International Collaborators

  • Dr. Fintan Kelleher (FK, ITT Dublin).


CNRS Gif-sur-Yvette Cedex, France; Dept. of Pharmaceutical Biology, University of Regensburg, Germany; Dept. of Pharmacognosy, University of Vienna, Austria. Dr. Niko Radulovic, Faculty of Chemistry, University of Nis, Serbia, Dr. Nunziatina De Tommasi, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Salerno, Italy.


Maria Abreu, M.D. Professor of Medicine Chief Division of Gastroenterology. University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Associate Professor of Medicine Mount Sinai School of Medicine Director, Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center .

People's Republic of China:

Guilin Sino-western Joint Hospital Chinese Medicine Advisory Department.


Mbarara University of Science & Technology, Uganda ( ).

South America:

Dr. Carla Holandino Quaresma, Faculty of Pharmacy, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. Brazil (, (

Research Affiliations & Funding

  • EUFP7 co-ordination grant as part of an international consortium (TCM)
  • Wellcome Trust (Translational award through Pharmatrin Ltd., progressing lead molecule from original Natural Product TCM project).
  • Enterprise Ireland (EI)-Industry project.
  • EI- Basic research project.
  • EU funding for Taxus research - a multi-centre project.
  • EI-British Council Travel Awards for collection of samples and collaborative visits.
  • EOLAS Cooperative research award to establish collaboration with CNRS at Gif-sur-Yvette Cedex, France and CNRS at Chatenay Malabry, Paris.
  • Irish –American partnership
  • TIDI (TCD).

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Current Research Projects

In the multidisciplinary NPDDG metabolites derived from plants, plant cell cultures, fungi (fruiting bodies and cultures), algae, micro-algae and other marine organisms are under investigation. Selected species, their total or fractionated extracts or active isolated components are evaluated in High Through-put Screens, using cell lines, molecular targets based on molecular biology and genetics, as well as conventional in-vivo screening models. Intact Plant Species: HS, IH, NF, JJW, F de SM . Plant cell tissue cultures: Including biotechnological development of novel plant cell culture; Optimisation of secondary metabolite production in plant cell cultures; Metabolic transformation of active natural products in cell culture systems; Induction of de novo metabolite synthesis in plant cell cultures. IH, HS. Algae: IH, HS. Fungal Cultures: HS, NF, FK.

Traditional Medicines For Drug discovery: HS, NF, F de SM: Members of the drug discovery group are currently involved in a number of projects based on ethnopharmacology. Kenya: The use of traditional medicine by the people of West Picot region in Kenya is currently being collated with a view to integrating the traditional medicinal use by the indigenous population with the westernized hospital system in the region. (CS in collaboration with HS). Uganda: The use of Vernonia amygdalina Del (Compositae) in Uganda for treatment of malaria is under investigation at Mbarara University of Science & Technology, South-Western Uganda. (HS, NF). South America: The traditional medicinal use of several plants from the Amazon Forest for the treatment of cancer is under investigation, with special attention to the plants belonging to the family Palmae.

Hybrid Molecules: JJW: Semi-synthesis plays an important role in drug development. Hybrid molecules based on the combination of natural products are currently under investigation as potential therapies for the treatment of malaria and certain cancers. Novel synthetic approaches combined with elegant strategies are currently being investigated to generate analogues with better “therapeutic potential”.

Traditional Chinese Medicine: HS, NF, IH: Globally there is a growing interest in therapeutic agents based on TCM. Increasing effort has been directed towards scientific proof, clinical evaluation and molecular analysis of TCM. An early research project investigating the anti-inflammatory potential of the traditional Chinese herbs Onychium siliculosum and O. japonicum (1989 to date) has led to the identification and development of a lead, synthetic, anti-inflammatory molecule which is now undergoing pre-clinical evaluation for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. This project led to the setting up of the campus company Pharmatrin Ltd whose main investor is the Wellcome Trust. HS, NF.

Combining their interest and expertise on Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and TCM members of the group are involved in a multidisciplinary project to investigate the potential of some established TCM formulations to provide novel therapies or identify potential new targets in the treatment of IBD. HS, NF, IH, CM and PF

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