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Marine Bioprospecting

March 2, 2010

Researchers turn to the ocean to look for potential new drugs.


Drugs from the sea …I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The ocean isn’t the first place you’d think to search for potential new drugs, but with over 300,000 species of life in the sea, marine biologist Shirley Pomponi says it’s actually yielded some very useful ones.

SHIRLEY POMPONI (Florida Atlantic University):
One of these drugs is called Prialt, derived from the venom of a cone snail that lives in the Pacific Ocean, and that captures its prey by stunning it with a barb, and injecting into it a toxin. It’s a painkiller, and the scientists realized that it would be effective to treat patients who are chronically ill, for example with cancer or AIDS.

Pomponi and her colleagues at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University are searching the ocean for other organisms with the potential to treat disease. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.