Natural Products Research Partnership with BIOTEC

Partnership objectives

  1. Isolation and characterization of new bacteria as producers of new natural products.
  2. Identification of natural products for drug discovery and development.
  3. Capacity building at BIOTEC in innovative natural products microbiology and chemistry.

Biosprospecting for higher fungus growing on fallen tree in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand. Biosprospecting for higher fungus growing on fallen tree in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand. Copyright Novartis

What are the health needs and challenges?

Better treatment of disease demands constant research and development of new drugs. To maximize effectiveness, this research must be global, but many drug research institutes in the developing world lack capacity and expertise. This partnership contributes to the identification of starting points in drug discovery and development in diseases of high unmet medical need, with a particular focus on actinomycetes bacteria to help develop new antibiotics.

Description of partnership activities and how they address needs and challenges

The partnership between Novartis and BIOTEC was established to transfer technological know-how on the isolation of actinomycetes bacteria - the most important source of antibiotics. Novartis experts in drug discovery and infectious diseases educate BIOTEC staff on-site and give technical training in the use of modern instruments and in the cultivation, isolation and purification of natural products.

BIOTEC scientists are also trained in microbiology, chemical profiling and high throughput drug and animal pathogen screening at the Novartis laboratories in Switzerland. Elaboration of screening libraries based on microbial extracts and pure natural products are useful to identify novel mechanisms of action to develop new therapeutic approaches for a broad portfolio of indications.

Lessons learned                         

In a bioprospecting partnership the capacity building aspect is a continuing process, as new research results are constantly influencing the scope and direction of joint research activities. This demands high flexibility and trust from both parties.    

Summary of impact and forward looking information

The number of extract and pure natural products for general drug screening has significantly increased, giving very positive prospects for the partnership’s continued success.

Partnership information

Company(ies) Novartis

Partner(s) National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC), Thailand

Type of Partner(s) Academia / Hospitals

Therapeutic Focus Other

Disease(s) General Health

Program Type(s) Availability of Treatment - Technology Transfer - Scientific Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing

Targeted Population(s) Children, Elderly, General population, Marginalised / Indigenous People, Men, Mothers, People with low income, Women, Youth

Region(s) East Asia & Pacific, Europe & Central Asia

Number of Countries 2

Country(ies) Switzerland, Thailand

Start Date 2005

More information BIOTEC

Anticipated completion date Ongoing

« Over the past 8 years, Novartis and BIOTEC scientists have worked closely in several new research initiatives. This partnership has been a long and continuing success and I believe that this is based on true commitment from both sides. »

Dr. Kanyawim Kirtikara, Executive Director, Biotec