Integration and natural product chemistry


Integrative sciences refer to as merging of individual research fields which, taken alone, provide descriptors of objects and isolated phenomena but which, taken together and by the integration of the resulting data, can provide extended or comprehensive information on a full and organized system. In that sense, the integration concept has been fully applied to complex biological systems, especially in the medical environment to discover new therapeutics targeting cancers.[1] It relies on a collaborative approach of science as integration strategies depend on individual willingness and in all cases should result in a lot more than the sum of each.

Natural products

Natural product chemistry is one of those fields which have become mature for decades thanks to technological and methodological improvements. Quite recently, at the end of the twentieth century, it has been challenged by competitive approaches (an integrative viewpoint would say “complementary approaches”) like combinatorial medicinal chemistry and its millions molecules which questioned the significance of natural product chemistry today and the effort of natural product chemists, with regard of its good value for money.[2] Yet it has rapidly been obvious that natural scaffolds, as privileged structures shaped under the pressure of evolution[3] and occupying extended portions of the chemical space, significantly increase the chance of finding biological activities.[4] Indeed the demonstration of the importance of natural products in everyday life and in nature has been done and redone: natural products are medicines, agrochemicals, cosmetics, allelochemicals, narcotics or poisons because they are intrinsically biologically active. In today’s research landscape, to go further and be innovative in natural product chemistry, we shall think different. Natural products should indeed be regarded as parts of a complex natural system in which they act as key components tuning the nodes of biological systems.


The scientific program of i-NPChem will follow a total of 4+2 working packages (WP). There will be four “vertical” WP organized by scientific matter and two “horizontal” WP dealing with fundamental concepts for the development of ideas and with the applied step forward (see the management WP6). This orthogonal organization should ensure the productivity of i-NPChem in terms of idea and scientific results, with constant transdisciplinary interactions being a key to success.

i-npchem star
Work packages of i-NPChem (Copyright: Bastien Nay)

[1] (a) A.-L. Barabási, N. Gulbahce, J. Loscalzo, Nature 2011, 12, 56-68; (b) J. Pei, N. Yin, X. Ma, L. Lai, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2014, 136, 11556-11565.

[2] For a discussion of natural product-based combinatorial chemistry: K. Grabowski, K.-H. Baringhaus, G. Schneider, Nat. Prod. Rep. 2008, 25, 892–904.

[3] S. Wetzel, R. S. Bon, K. Kumar, H. Waldmann, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2011, 50, 10800–10826.

[4] C.M. Dobson, Nature 2004, 432, 824-828.