As described by HBOI’s Marine Drug Discovery Program, “Natural products, or secondary metabolites, are small organic molecules produced by organisms. These metabolites are not essential to sustain life (unlike sugars, fats, or proteins), but are thought to confer an evolutionary advantage because energy is required for the organisms to produce natural products. For example, if a sponge makes a compound that is toxic to predators, or tastes bad, that sponge may be protected from being eaten, and has an advantage over one that does not produce the compounds. Because there are similarities between proteins found in humans and those found in sponges, soft corals and other organisms with which we work, we can take advantage of these compounds to use as medicines for diseases affecting those proteins.”
Many target species with discovery potential live on reefs. Deep reefs are vast, unexplored reservoirs of potential products. CIOERT partners at FAU/HBOI and UNCW have the resources to explore this frontier, target and sample potential discoveries, isolate compounds, and bring new products to market with industry partners, for example, through UNCW’s MARBIONC consortium.
Expedition Objective: Chemical Analysis of Sessile Benthic Taxa and Biomedical Resources
(P.I. Amy Wright, Ph.D.)
The goal of the CIOERT Natural Products Drug Discovery Project is to discover new therapeutic agents from pelagic, midwater and benthic frontier habitats explored by the CI. These frontier habitats represent a rich repository of unstudied biodiversity including marine actinomycetes, fungi, microalgae, sponges, ascidians and cnidarians. The HBOI group has worked in the proposed target areas previously and specimens can be compared pre-exposure and post-exposure for effects of oil on microbial communities and natural products chemistry. After the expedition, materials will be evaluated in a broad range of biological assays related to human disease both in the PIs laboratories and through collaborative agreements with researchers having complementary assays. The active components will be purified and the structures defined through spectroscopic methods.