When insights from pharma help fight fungus

When insights from pharma help fight fungus

Fungicide resistance is a growing problem, as evidenced by
publication trends. Publications on this issue are particularly high across the
world’s major economies, and many focus specifically on the fungus Botrytis.

A greater awareness of the toxic effects of conventional
fungicide formulations is driving interest among those in the crop protection
sector in new pesticides. Researchers are trying to increase efficacy with a
more targeted approach for a specific organism or class of organisms, and by
finding novel targets and modes of action to overcome resistance.

With the goals of pesticide discovery not so very different
from those of drug discovery, could insights from pharmaceutical research
potentially help with the problem of fungicide resistance?

Some of us at Elsevier thought the answer to that question
could be yes. Finding new lead compounds that might act as a new pesticide can
be a lengthy process, and so we have been working on a method which can provide
lead compounds by using the breadth of information available from pharma

Our project goals included:

* Exploring insights from anti-parasitic drug discovery to
identify targets and chemicals used

* Further exploring the applicability of those insights in
the development of fungicides with a customer active in the crop protection

* Creating a proof-of-concept model [parasite: Plasmodium
; fungal species: Botryotinia fuckeliana and Zymoseptoria
; target: any protein involved]

Key to our strategy was:

1) Finding out which small molecules interact with Plasmodium
targets, which we did by using a database of bioactivity data
mined and extracted from literature and patents to get pre-extracted
information about proteins from Plasmodium falciparum

2) Finding out which proteins in fungi are homologs to Plasmodium
targets by building homology maps between fungi and Plasmodium

The result:

Chemical and biological informatics methods and data were used
to map compounds active against biological targets in parasites in humans to
fungal targets. And, as a result of our efforts, we were able to identify candidate
compounds affecting fungal targets.

We are very excited about this success in finding novel
lead compounds in pesticide discovery inspired by pharmaceutical research, and
look forward to seeing how our work can help in crop protection research.

On April 8, we will be hosting a webinar going into detail about our work showing how pharma research helps fungal research—register for it here and join us!

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