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Going the Natural Root

April 02, 2001|JUDY FOREMAN

A number of pharmaceuticals based on plants, insects, marine organisms, soil bacteria and other natural products are now under development.

* Researchers from Abbott Laboratories are conducting trials of a painkiller called ABT-594, which the company says is about 50 times better than morphine in relieving chronic and acute pain yet is not addictive. Abbott scientists had already synthesized ABT-594 for other uses when they learned of the work of National Institutes of Health biologist John Daly, who more than a decade ago discovered the powerful painkilling properties of a substance called epibatidine in the skin of a tiny Ecuadoran tree frog.

* A painkiller called Ziconotide, being developed by Neurex Corp., is derived from a poison taken from cone snails that live in tropical oceans.

* Syncercid, approved by the Food and Drug Administration and marketed by Aventis, is derived from Argentine soil microorganisms. It combats antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday April 9, 2001 Home Edition Health Part S Page 3 View Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
Wrong description--In an April 2 list of pharmaceuticals based on plants, insects and marine organisms, the drug Bryostatin was incorrectly described. It comes from a marine animal.

* Bryostatin, developed by researchers at Arizona State University and derived from a marine weed that grows off the California coast, is in human trials against more than 20 kinds of cancer. It appears to work in ways not found with current chemotherapy, the National Cancer Institute says.

* Dolastatin, also discovered by researchers at Arizona State, is derived from the blue-green algae that sea slugs near Guam feed on. It is in Phase I human trials as a cancer killing agent.

* Discodermolide, derived from yet another marine organism and discovered by researchers at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce, Fla., is also showing promise as a cancer-killing agent.

* A potential drug to combat AIDS, calanolide A, is in human testing now. It was discovered by researchers at the National Cancer Institute from a plant collected in the Malaysian state of Sarawak.

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