Mushrooms have been used as a source of traditional medicine for thousands of years by different cultures around the world. However, it is estimated that only 10% of mushroom species on Earth have been described. This suggests that mushrooms are a major largely untapped source of potentially powerful new pharmaceutical natural products.
They hypothesized that BC, due to its high ecological biodiversity, is home to thousands of different mushroom species with novel anti-cancer compounds. With the support from Genome BC Strategic Opportunity Fund and UNBC, they set out to collect and screen BC mushroom extracts for three biological activities that are relevant to cancer: growth-inhibitory, immuno-stimulatory and anti-inflammatory activities. They collected over 100 mushroom samples in 7 major locations from the forests across north-central BC and genetically identified them. They found for the first time 21 mushroom species to have potent or moderately potent growth-inhibitory activity, 19 species to have potent or moderately potent immuno-stimulatory activity, and 34 mushroom species to have potent or moderately potent anti-inflammatory activity.
This study has provided the momentum to initiate a biological database on BC wild mushrooms at UNBC. In total of $818K follow-on funding has been leveraged from multiple funders including an industrial partner. Multiple local and international collaborations either have been or will be established.