Marine Resources and Pharmaceutical Products

I THINK YOU HAVE TO THINK BACK
ABOUT THE WHOLE ORIGIN OF THE MODERN PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY,
AND WHERE YOU GO BACK IS 3,000 YEARS TO AN
UNDERSTANDING OF THE FACT THAT VERY EARLY SOCIETIES USED PLANTS
AND ANIMALS THAT THEY LIVED VERY CLOSELY BY AND
INTIMATELY WITH IN THE TREATMENT OF DISEASE. NATURAL MATERIALS WERE CLEARLY
THE FOUNDATION IN THE EARLY DAYS OF DISCOVERY OF MORPHINE
FROM THE POPPY, THE DISCOVERY OF ASPIRIN FROM THE
WILLOW TREE. THESE WERE SEMINAL DISCOVERIES
THAT REALLY CREATED AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE WHOLE
CONCEPT OF A PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCT, A DRUG, TO
BE DEVELOPED. AND SO WITH THIS BACKDROP, WE
BECAME FULLY AWARE THAT NATURE WAS THE PROVIDER OF PRODUCTS
TO CURE DISEASE. THIS IS CALLED
PSEUDOPTEROGORGIA, AND IT’S A SOFT CORAL THAT GROWS
IN THE CARIBBEAN. WHAT’S MOST INTERESTING ABOUT
PSEUDOPTEROGORGIA IS THAT IF YOU EXTRACT IT WITH ORGANIC
SOLVENT AND THEN PURIFY THE PRODUCTS, THEN YOU CAN
ISOLATE FROM IT A NEW ANTI-INFLAMMATORY AGENT WHICH
IS CALLED PSEUDOPTEROSIN A. NARRATOR: BIOLOGISTS HAVE
EXTENDED THEIR SEARCH FOR NEW MEDICINES TO THE OCEAN, OFTEN
FOCUSING THEIR RESEARCH ON CORAL REEFS. AND THE REASON IS THAT CORAL
REEFS ARE SOME OF THE MOST UNUSUAL AND MOST PRODUCTIVE
OF THE MARINE ENVIRONMENT. WHAT’S HAPPENED IS THAT OVER
THE LAST 10 YEARS, THE NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE IN
THE US HAS INVESTED VERY HEAVILY IN STUDYING PLANTS AND
INVERTEBRATE ANIMALS LIKE SPONGES AND SEA SQUIRTS
AND CORALS. AND THEY’VE MADE SIGNIFICANT
DISCOVERIES. I’LL GIVE YOU A COUPLE
OF EXAMPLES. THERE’S AN ANIMAL THAT GROWS
RIGHT HERE IN SAN DIEGO, IN FACT, GROWS ON OUR PIER. IT’S CALLED BUGULA NERITINA. IT’S CALLED A MOSS ANIMAL. IT’S A VERY PRETTY ANIMAL. YOU’D MISTAKE IT FOR A PLANT IF
YOU SAW IT GROWING ON THE PIER PILING. IT PRODUCES A VERY POTENT
MOLECULE CALLED BRYOSTATIN, AND BRYOSTATIN HAS THE ABILITY
TO INHIBIT THE GROWTH OF CANCER CELLS IN VERY
EFFECTIVE WAYS. THIS COMPOUND, BRYOSTATIN, WAS
DEVELOPED WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF THE NATIONAL CANCER
INSTITUTE, IS NOW IN CLINICAL TRIALS, AND IS SHOWING GOOD
CONTROL OF CANCER. THERE ARE MANY OTHER EXAMPLES;
SPONGES, FOR EXAMPLE, WHICH ARE SOFT. WE ALL KNOW WHAT A BATH
SPONGE LOOKS LIKE. BUT IN NATURE, BECAUSE THEY’RE
SOFT, THEY HAVE TO DEVELOP A CHEMICAL METHOD TO DEFEND
THEMSELVES. AND THESE CHEMICAL SUBSTANCES
ARE USED IN NATURE TO DETER PREDATORS, TO DISCOURAGE ANIMALS
FROM EATING THESE SPONGES AND SO FORTH. BUT WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE EFFECTS
OF THOSE NATURAL PRODUCTS, THOSE CHEMICAL
COMPOUNDS, IN CANCER, YOU SEE THAT QUITE A LARGE NUMBER OF
THEM SHOW INHIBITION OF CANCER CELL GROWTH AND POSSESS
PROPERTIES THAT WILL ALLOW US POTENTIALLY TO DEVELOP A DRUG. NARRATOR: DESPITE THE PROMISE
THE MARINE ENVIRONMENT HOLDS AS A SOURCE OF PHARMACEUTICAL
RESOURCES, THERE ARE SOME COMPLICATING FACTORS THAT IMPEDE
RESEARCH ACTIVITIES. SOME OF THESE ACTIVITIES ARE
NOT THE SAME AS WANDERING THROUGH A RAINFOREST
COLLECTING LEAVES. THEY JUST ARE NOT THE SAME. THEY REQUIRE DIVING PERHAPS ON
OCCASION IN DANGEROUS AREAS WITH INHOSPITABLE MARINE LIFE
AND/OR INHOSPITABLE WEATHER. THEY REQUIRE A BIT MORE
COMMITMENT TO DO THAT JOB. THEY’RE MORE DIFFICULT TO
COLLECT IN LARGE SCALE. YOU CAN DRY LEAVES AND BRING
THEM BACK TO YOUR LABORATORY. BUT YOU CAN’T DRY WET,
SOGGY MARINE ANIMALS. NARRATOR: BUT OBSTACLES OF THIS
SORT, WHILE CHALLENGING, ARE CERTAINLY NOT
INSURMOUNTABLE. THERE IS, HOWEVER, ONE
MAJOR PROBLEM THAT IS ESPECIALLY DIFFICULT. AND THIS IS THE PROBLEM
OF SUPPLY. THIS IS THE PROBLEM REGARDING
HOW WE ARE GOING TO PRODUCE ENOUGH MATERIAL TO BE
USED AS A DRUG. IF YOU DISCOVER THAT AN
INVERTEBRATE ANIMAL CONTAINS AN ANTI-CANCER DRUG, YOU’RE
GOING TO NEED 100,000 POUNDS OF THAT ANIMAL IN ORDER TO
EXTRACT IT AND PURIFY FROM THAT ANIMAL THE AMOUNT OF
POTENTIAL DRUG TO BE USED FOR CLINICAL TRIALS, NOT
TO MENTION SALES. AND SO HOW DO WE GO ABOUT
HARVESTING SUCH MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF ANIMAL
FROM THE OCEAN? AND THE ANSWER IS WE REALLY
CAN’T DO THAT. THIS IS ONE OF THE REASONS WHY
WE BEGAN TO LOOK AT ORGANISMS THAT YOU COULD CULTURE, THAT YOU
COULD BRING A SINGLE DROP OF SEAWATER, A FEW GRAINS OF
SAND, OR A TINY BIT OF A SPONGE IN FROM THE OCEAN AND,
IN FACT, DERIVE SOMETHING THAT’S A RENEWABLE RESOURCE,
A CULTURABE RESOURCE. SO THIS IS THE BIG
FERMENTATION, THE LARGE-SCALE FERMENTER. YEAH. 50 LITERS. 50 LITER FERMENTATION. IT’S IMPORTANT THAT WE GET THIS
KIND OF VOLUME, OR WE’LL NOT BE ABLE TO REALLY GET THESE
MOLECULES OUT OF HERE IN ANY QUANTITY. WE’VE LEARNED HOW TO GROW
INVERTEBRATE ANIMALS IN TANKS, PRODUCE HUGE AMOUNTS OF THESE
ANIMALS, AND THEN USE THAT AS A PROCESS TO PRODUCE LARGE
AMOUNTS OF DRUGS FOR SALE. THESE ARE ALL NEW THINGS. THEY’RE ALL NEW WAYS TO REALLY
PRODUCE MATERIALS. NARRATOR: DESPITE THE
EXTRAORDINARY PROGRESS THAT’S BEEN MADE IN A RELATIVELY SHORT
AMOUNT OF TIME, THE EFFORT TO UTILIZE MARINE
RESOURCES IN THE PRODUCTION OF PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCTS IS
VERY MUCH IN ITS INFANCY. ALONG WITH PROBLEMS OF SUPPLY,
THERE ARE OTHER CHALLENGES AS WELL. CONVINCING PHARMACEUTICAL
COMPANIES TO INVEST IN SOMETHING THEY DON’T FULLY
UNDERSTAND IS ONE. FORGING GLOBAL ALLIANCES THAT
FOSTER COOPERATION AMONG NATIONS IS ANOTHER. STILL, THE POTENTIAL CAN’T
BE OVERLOOKED. GO BACK AND THINK ABOUT JUST
HOW DIVERSE THE NATURAL PRODUCTS ARE IN YOUR LIFE THAT
ARE DERIVED FROM THE TERRESTRIAL ENVIRONMENT. WE HAVE RELIED ENORMOUSLY
ON PRODUCTS FROM NATURE. THE OCEAN IS NOW SIMPLY
JUST BEING CONSIDERED. AND WHEN YOU LOOK AT THAT
DIVERSITY, THE POSSIBILITIES OF THE PRODUCTION OF SUCH A WIDE
VARIETY OF MATERIALS IN EVERY FORM OF OUR LIFE, IN EVERY
STYLE OF PRODUCT THAT WE USE, IT’S ENORMOUS.

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