Sigma Aldrich recently launched a new product, Ascochlorin, which has been derived from a fungus found in Thailand called Verticillium hemipterigenum. Ascochlorin comes from a class of organic chemical compounds called isoprenoids and obtains its name from the fungus Ascochyta. The product is a result of joint effort amongst various research groups in Thailand.
As early as 2004, a team of scientists from BIOTEC and Mahidol University reported the discovery of new ascochlorin-like compounds produced by Verticillium hemipterigenum BCC 2370, an insect pathogenic fungi collected in the area of Haew Narok Waterfall in Khao Yai National Park. This discovery was recorded in the Journal of Antibiotics. The compounds were evaluated and found to have anti-viral and cytotoxic activities. The discovery prompted interest from Sigma-Aldrich, a leading life-science company in biochemical and organic chemical products for scientific research, to acquire BIOTEC’s permission to evaluate Verticillium hemipterigenum BCC 2370 for commercial production of ascochlorin. The evaluation produced positive results and Sigma-Aldrich subsequently obtained a license from BIOTEC-NSTDA to utilize Verticillium hemipterigenum BCC 2370 for commercial production of ascochlorin. This newly developed product from Verticillium hemipterigenum is now available for sale on the company web site.
According to BIOTEC Executive Director, Dr. Kanyawim Kirtikara, “BIOTEC has been conducting the surveys and studies of microorganisms since 1993 with the purpose of conservation and sustainable utilization. Our microbial bank currently houses more than 40,000 microbial strains.”
Microorganisms, including fungi, are an important source of novel compounds and enzymes that can be of great use in major industries such as pharmaceutical, chemical and even agricultural industries. Many of these organisms are unique to Thailand, underscoring the importance of our forests.
“BIOTEC set up a special Bioresources Technology Unit with the idea of looking at the potential for valuable products, whether in the form of compounds, enzymes or genes, from microorganisms, through highly systematic and efficient research. Several research teams are involved in the study of microbial utilization, ranging from surveying and identification, preservation, fermentation, bioactive compound screening, enzyme screening and chemistry. This accomplishment is therefore the product of a concerted effort that various parties should be proud of,” added Dr. Kanyawim.