, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 3-19
Date: 16 Jul 2011

Fifty years of drug discovery from fungi

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Abstract

For the past 50 years, fungal secondary metabolites have revolutionized medicine yielding blockbuster drugs and drug leads of enormous therapeutic and agricultural potential. Since the discovery of penicillin, the first β-lactam antibiotic, fungi provided modern medicine with important antibiotics for curing life threatening infectious diseases. A new era in immunopharmacology and organ transplantation began with the discovery of cyclosporine. Other important drugs or products for agriculture derived from or inspired by natural products from fungi include statins, echinocandins and strobilurins. Moreover, fungal biotransformation of steroids for the industrial production of steroidal hormones represents one of the key successes in biotechnology. Given that estimations of fungal biodiversity exceed by far the number of already identified species, chances to find hitherto unidentified fungal species and novel bioactive fungal products are still high. Thus, further compounds with medicinal or agricultural potential from less investigated fungal taxa can be expected in the years to come.