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When insights from pharma help fight fungus

Posted on March 24th, 2020 by in Pharma R&D

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 research.

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 business

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

Key to our strategy was:

1) Finding out which small molecules interact with Plasmodium falciparum 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 falciparum targets by building homology maps between fungi and Plasmodium falciparum

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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