Nature is still a vital source of drug leads and medicinal agents. Throughout the years, an impressive number of important drugs has been derived from natural sources. During the period 1981 to 2019, 18.9% of the FDA-approved drugs were natural-derived products and 3.8% were unaltered natural products. It is apparent that natural products will remain to be an important contributor to the discovery and development of new drugs and therapies.
As a result, an initiative that will share the current knowledge about natural drug products connecting research and practice seems now to be a very essential need. A multidisciplinary collaborative summer school within three CIVIS member universities (University of Bucharest, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, University of Tübingen), one African partner (University of Pretoria-South Africa) and three non-CIVIS partners (University of Florence, Carol Davila University Bucharest, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) will take place at the Department of Pharmacy at National Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA).
The aim of the summer school is to provide and share the current research of six basic domains: Chemistry of Natural Products, Ethnopharmacology, Pharmacology/Pharmacokinetics, Pharmaceutical Technology, Phytotherapy and Nutrition. The summer school is structured around lectures (physical and virtual), round table discussions, young researcher talks from the participants’ Universities, students’ presentations, a lab activity, and an industry visit.
Main topics addressed
- Chemistry of natural products
- Application of medicinal plants in different traditional health systems
- Pharmacology, pharmacokinetics (bioavailability, safety and risks) and toxicity of natural products
- Pharmaceutical technology (i.e. formulations, quality design)
- Nutrition and sustainable food systems
The summer school focuses on the development of critical thinking and transdisciplinarity, as well as promotes team spirit and an international mentality among participants. At the end of the summer school, students will have been exposed to various aspects that will allow improving their knowledge on:
- The impact of natural products in Pharmacy from Antiquity since today.
- The importance of medicinal plants used in the Traditional Medicines.
- The occurrence, isolation, characterization, identification, and biosynthesis of biologically active natural products.
- The concept of QSAR models and the application of virtual screening based on validated QSAR models to predicting pharmaco-toxicological effects of natural products.
- The antibiotic target areas, classical and new molecular targets, methods for their elucidation.
- Techniques used to improve the physicochemical properties (e.g. water solubility), bioavailability and serum and tissue pharmacokinetics, of orally administered natural products, as well as possible alternative routes of administration.
- Assays to evaluate efficacy and toxicity of different natural topical drugs.
- The use of formulations and in particular nanotechnologies to enhance the biopharmaceutical properties of natural products.
- The principles of QbD and the impact of their application to the development of pharmaceutical formulations
- The process and requirements needed to take natural products all the way from research and development through to commercialization.
- The use and safety of herbal medicinal products carefully interpreting the monographs and the claims of the European Medicine Agency (EMA).
- The importance of natural products in the Mediterranean Diet and their vital role in sustainable food systems.