Yousong Ding, Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicinal chemistry, received a five-year, $1.7 million grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to advance his natural product-based drug research. With the funding from the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award, Ding aims to access and expand chemical diversity of microbes through the use of new, innovative strategies. He hypothesizes that he can exploit microbial genomes to explore natural products and analogs. “Natural products form a validated and preeminent source of new drug leads,” he said. “But the low rate of new discoveries and the limited access of bioactive compounds are challenging current natural products-based drug discovery and development.”
Microbes are a prominent source of new therapeutically relevant compounds, but current discovery processes can only access a small fraction of these compounds. Ding seeks to develop new approaches for directly encoding chemicals from microbial genomes. In addition, enzymes as biocatalysts are proven alternatives for chemical synthesis, thus discovery of new enzymology from microbes can advance the synthesis of structural complex natural products, aiding drug research.