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Drug Discovery from the Deep Oceans - C. Richard Hutchinson Lecture

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William Fenical, PhD (bio)

November 13, 2009

54 minutes

143 Recorded video views

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Abstract: For 50 or more years, ending in the mid 1990s, soil-derived actinomycetes provided a major pharmaceutical resource for the discovery of antibiotics and related bioactive compounds. During this time, a major effort was undertaken to examine virtually every terrestrial habitat. The oceans, representing >70% of the earth’s surface were never seriously considered as a source for bacterial diversity.

This is because the prevailing view was that the most important bacterial class, the actinomycetes, were exclusively terrestrial. In addition, the marine environment is far more difficult to sample and little information was available to insure successful cultivation.

For the last 15 years, we have examined tropical marine environments and undertaken a systematic approach to cultivate and identify “marine actinomycetes”, i.e., those uniquely adapted to growth in the sea. Our studies have revealed that taxonomically-unique representatives of the major families can readily be cultivated. We now know that seawater-requiring actinomycetes are a significant component of the near-shore and deep ocean sediment bacterial communities.

At least 14 diverse phylotypes, which appear unique at the species or generic level, have been isolated. The unique biosynthetic capacity of these strains is now leading to the isolation of a wide diversity of structurally and pharmacologically novel secondary metabolites.