About Ben Shen
Natural Product Biosynthesis, Engineering, and Drug Discovery. Microorganisms produce a large variety of biologically active substances representing a vast diversity of fascinating molecular architecture not available in any other systems. Our research centers on the chemistry, biochemistry and genetics of the biosynthesis of these secondary metabolites. Blending organic chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular biology, we take a multidisciplinary approach to study the secondary metabolism by asking the following questions: what reactions are available in nature, what are the enzymatic mechanisms of these reactions, how are these reactions linked to produce complex structures, what are the regulatory mechanisms of these pathways, and, ultimately, how can we leverage a large microbial strain collection and develop enabling genome mining and synthetic biology technologies for natural product discovery and production, and manipulate nature’s biosynthetic machinery for the discovery and development of new drugs. Members of our group gain broad training spanning organic chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology and molecular biology, a qualification that is becoming essential for the modern bioorganic chemists who seek career opportunity in both academia and pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry (http://www.scripps.edu/shen/).
Natural Products Discovery Center at Scripps Research. Natural products are significantly underrepresented in current small molecule libraries. The current Natural Products Library (NPL) at Scripps Research’s Natural Product Discovery Center consists of: (i) purified natural products with fully assigned structures, (b) MPLC (on C-18 semipreparative column) fractions, and (c) crude extracts. The NPL is presented in 384-well format with all materials dissolved in DMSO (1 mM for pure compounds and 50 mg/mL for fractions and extracts), compatible with most of the HTS platforms. The NPL currently available for screening includes: (a) ~600 pure natural products, (b) ~53,500 MPLC fractions, (c) ~205,000 crude extracts. The NPL provides an unprecedented molecular diversity to screen emerging targets for drug leads, and selected members of the NPL serves as outstanding small molecule probes to interrogate biology. Central to the Natural Products Discovery Center is the large microbial strain collection, containing a total of 217,352 bacterial and fungal strains, of which 62,328 are actinobacteria, 14,465 other bacteria, 92,225 fungi, and 48,334 unidentified (bacteria or fungi). Promising leads could therefore be produced in sufficient quantities by microbial fermentation for follow up studies and, ultimately, clinical development.