The Editorial Board of The Journal of Antibiotics is happy to announce the winners of the 2014 JA Medals for review and original publications. Eligible contributions were published in the journal over the past 36 months.

The 2014 JA Medal for reviews is entitled ‘Towards a new science of secondary metabolism’ by Arryn Craney, Salman Ahmed and Justin Nodwell from the University of Toronto (The Journal of Antibiotics volume 66, pages 387–400, 2013).1 In this timely review, the authors report the state of our current understanding of the regulation of biosynthetic gene clusters in actinomycetes and its application in mining new natural product production and increasing production of compounds. They explain the similarities and differences in regulatory strategies that are specific to individual clusters and those that are involved in the expression of many distinct compounds. A common thread in the review is the idea of rationally exploiting these mechanisms in strain improvement and selective measures to boost natural product production. The review nicely knits together historical and recent information on natural product expression and as a result is of great importance to researchers interested in modulating the expression of compounds and fully exploiting the chemical diversity of these remarkable bacteria.

The JA Medal for an original article is awarded for a paper entitled ‘Occurrence, distribution, dereplication and efficient discovery of thiazolyl peptides by sensitive-resistant pair screening’ authored by a group (Sheo B Singh et al.) from Merck Laboratories in Rahway, New Jersey and the Fundación MEDIN in Granada Spain (The Journal of Antibiotics volume 66, pages 599–607, 2013).2 In this work, the authors offer a new solution to the dereplication challenge in new antibiotic discovery from natural product sources. Focusing on the thiazolyl peptide antibiotics that include such compounds as thiostrepton and thiazomycin, they report on a platform where the first step is a parallel bioassay on thiazomycin-sensitive and -resistant Staphylococcus aureus to identify extracts that have antibiotic activity vs sensitive but not resistant strains and are designated as likely containing thiazolyl antibiotics. They next developed a highly sensitive miniaturized (96-well) solid phase extraction and purification approach with analysis by high-resolution Fourier transform LCMS to dereplicate known thiazolyl antibiotics. Subsequent analysis of novel compounds identified three new members of this class of antibiotics. This work demonstrates the power of platform approaches that combine microbiological and analytical methods to narrow in on new chemical matter in antibiotic discovery.

In both the JA Medal publications for this year, the recurring theme is on novelty and innovation. This demonstrates the creativity and excitement in the microbial natural products field that are being fueled by the application of modern breakthroughs in genomics and analytical chemistry to traditional antibiotic discovery.