After the successful discoveries of numerous antibiotics from microorganisms, frequent reisolation of known compounds becomes an obstacle in further development of new drugs from natural products. Exploration of biological sources that can provide novel scaffolds is thus an urgent matter in drug lead screening. As an alternative source to the conventionally used soil microorganisms, we selected endophytic actinomycetes, marine actinomycetes, and actinomycetes in tropical areas for investigation and found an array of new bioactive compounds. Furthermore, based on the analysis of the distribution pattern of biosynthetic gene clusters in bacteria together with available genomic data, we speculated that biosynthetic gene clusters for secondary metabolites are specific to each genus. Based on this assumption, we investigated actinomycetal and marine bacterial genera from which no compounds have been reported, which led to the discovery of a variety of skeletally novel bioactive compounds. These findings suggest that consideration of environmental factor and taxonomic position is critically effective in the selection of potential strains producing structurally unique compounds.
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On the occasion of winning the Sumiki-Umezawa Memorial Award 2022 from the Japan Antibiotics Research Association, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Prof. Toshikazu Oki, Prof. Tamotsu Furumai, Dr. Naoya Oku, Dr. Enjuro Harunari, Prof. Daisuke Urabe, and Dr. Keisuke Fukaya at Toyama Prefectural University, Prof. Hiroyasu Onaka at University of Tokyo, and all the students, research fellows, and collaborators whose names are listed in my publications. I also would like to give a special thanks to Prof. Kenji Mori at University of Tokyo.
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Yasuhiro Igarashi was awarded the Sumiki-Umezawa Memorial Award from the Japan Antibiotics Research Association in 2022. This review article is partly based on his award-winning research.
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Igarashi, Y. Development of a drug discovery approach from microbes with a special focus on isolation sources and taxonomy. J Antibiot (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41429-023-00625-y