In 1992, the European Community signed the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at the UN conference in Rio de Janeiro. The main objectives of the CBD are conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use, ensuring appropriate access to, genetic resources, and equitable sharing of benefits derived from them. The Community adopted further biodiversity related documents, such as {COM(2006)216} Halting the Loss of Biodiversity by 2010 – and Beyond, and policies on sustainable development {COM(2001)264} and on sustainable use of natural resources {COM(2005)670}. Protection of the environment is a continuing concern to the EC, and strategies for reduction of pollutants of various types have been developed, such as pesticides {COM(2002)349} and endocrine disrupters {COM(1999)706}. Exploring biodiversity by an in-depth scientific study of plant species is undoubtedly one of the ways to preserve biodiversity, explore possible new uses and sustainable products, and develop capacity for managing it. The eco-design of products is an important aspect of the EC Strategy on the Prevention and Recycling of Waste {COM(2005)666}. As a consequence of this, new products to be developed should be safe for humans and the environment, should respect the principles of sustainability of production and use, should bring benefit to the source country in case of biologically-derived products, while strengthening the competitiveness of the European industry through innovation. These ambitious goals can be achieved by innovative products from biological sources which fill existing gaps in existing product lines or can favorably replace existing products.
Small molecules derived directly or indirectly from natural sources have a highly successful track record as pharmaceuticals, and their economic importance is big. In contrast, the current economic importance of cosmetic and agrochemical ingredients from natural sources is significantly smaller. However, there is no reason why small molecule natural products should not be equally successful in these areas than in the pharmaceutical field. Hence, there is considerable potential yet to be explored and used as cosmetic and agrochemical ingredients.
There is increasing concern with the impact of synthetic cosmetic and agrochemicals on humans and the environment. Synthetic cosmetic ingredients such as UV-screens are under scrutiny for their endocrine disrupting and other detrimental effects on humans and water living organisms, and the leakage of agrochemicals into the environment is a problem. The long-term effects of low dose exposure to an ever growing number of synthetic chemicals are not understood at present. Increased use of natural products, hence, molecules already existing in our environment, would reduce the exposure to synthetic compounds, and appropriate production methods would ensure environmental sustainability of production. Thus, there is a need for naturally derived cosmetic and agrochemical ingredients, both from an ecological and health perspective.
The main goal of the proposal is to discover and develop to the stage of development candidates, plant derived small molecules (so called secondary metabolites) with potential as UV protecting, anti-aging and anti-hyperpigmentation ingredients in cosmetics, and as antifungal, insecticidal and herbicidal agents in agrochemistry.