“Jewels in the Mud” is an encouraging story about how marine biomedicine can fight drug resistance and disease. A microbe found on seaweed by William Fenical and his team at the University of California San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography has led to the drug Plinabulin, which blocks blood vessels in tumors from getting the nourishment they need, leading to their death, while leaving the healthy cells alone.
Professor Fenical is Director of the Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine (CMBB) at Scripps. His group “conducts research relevant to defining the roles and biomedical applications of the unique organic molecules produced by marine life. Programs are integrated to isolate and define chemical compounds which function as chemical defenses and molecules used for communication, and to assess the potential of these same compounds in the treatment of human and animal diseases. In drug discovery, a major focus is upon cancer, inflammatory diseases and in the discovery of new anti-infectives.” Dr Fenical receives financial support for his research from the National Cancer Institute, the National Science Foundation, the National Sea Grant Program, the California BioStar Program and from a number of pharmaceutical companies.