Project Details


With the lack of effective agents to control a spectrum of deadly cancers and viruses (e.g., HIV) and with drug-resistant microbes reaching epidemic proportions, pharmaceutical firms are actively searching for novel biodiversity to screen for bioactive natural products and are in the active process of attempting to synthesize many of the promising bioactive compounds. Despite our relatively rudimentary knowledge of biodiversity in marine ecosystems, recent discoveries have identified a number of natural products with commercially-significant activities such as: anti-tumor, anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, and anti-inflammatory agents; cardiovascular modulators; and cytotoxins. According to a review of the Journal of Natural Product entitled: Deep sea hydrothermal vent: Potential Hot Spot for Natural Products Discovery (2010, 73, pp. 489-499), large and almost untapped reserves of organisms are from the deep sea and particularly from deep-sea hydrothermal vents. We have available to us highly unique and vast collections of different marine organisms from extreme and unexplored environments and we are using a new and effective method to screen compounds for potential anti-cancer (i.e., apoptosis induction) activity. The objectives of the present proposal focus on research, commercial product development, and innovative educational initiatives associated with organisms inhabiting deep-sea hydrothermal vents and cold-water seeps. Specific objectives are outlined as follows: (1) to screen a wide spectrum of invertebrates and microorganisms isolated from deep-sea extreme environments for bioactive compounds of significant use to a wide range of industrial companies with distinct product emphasis (e.g., pharmaceuticals, bioremediation, food, detergents). To this end, we propose to continue screening new extracts, fractions and compounds from our extensive collection of marine organisms, and to create a library of apoptosis inducing compounds that have a potential to be developed as anti-cancer drugs. (2) to continue sampling and basic research efforts at deep-sea hydrothermal vents and cold-water seeps at various sites in the oceans throughout the world: and (3) to undertake a diversity of educational initiatives, centered around the showing of a large-screen IMAX film entitled Volcanoes of the Deep Sea that we co-produced in conjunction with the Stephen Low Company and which is presently being shown at museums and science centers throughout the world. These efforts are an integral part of a concerted effort to educate an extremely large segment of the public to the wonders of the highly unique deep-sea ecosystems in which we are conducting our ongoing research efforts. There are few in our society who would not benefit directly or indirectly from the development of pharmaceuticals with significant anti-cancer properties. A project focusing on the commercial development of such product (and one that is also aimed at exposing and educating a huge world-wide audience to our ongoing research efforts) has all the makings of one with a potentially tremendous, positive economic and social impact.
Effective start/end date10/1/129/30/17


  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture (National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA))


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