Is the Next Blockbuster Drug in Kentucky's Coal Mines?

January 21, 2016

In their ongoing quest to develop the latest and most effective drugs for disease treatment, researchers in the University of Kentucky's Center for Pharmaceutical Research and Innovation (CPRI) are looking deep — as in, deep underground.

It's all part of a UK-based bioprospecting initiative, which involves a collaboration between CPRI, the Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER), and the Kentucky Geological Survey (KGS). The idea behind the program is to collect samples from unusual environments throughout the Commonwealth, with the goal of finding new, unique organisms that produce natural products that could potentially be used to develop new drugs with an initial focus on treatments for cancer, infectious disease and inflammation.

CPRI Director Jon Thorson and his lab team are part of a large consortium of investigators at UK focused upon the discovery and development of natural product-based drug leads from unique sources including bacteria, fungi and plants. Thorson also serves as the co-director of the Markey Cancer Center’s Drug Discovery, Delivery and Translational Therapeutics Program and co-director of the Drug Discovery and Development Core in the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science. 

Recently, a Newsweek reporter followed Thorson on a sampling expedition at the Booth Energy Matrix Mine No. 1 in Eastern Kentucky. Though Thorson has retrieved samples from Kentucky wells, coal fires, coal fields and surface mines, It was Thorson’s first trip aimed at getting samples from an underground coal mine. Learn more about Thorson’s work here at UK and why natural product drug development is again becoming important to the pharmaceutical industry. 

Read the Newsweek article here.