Exploring the Potential of the World's Oceans
The invertebrates and algae that live in our oceans hold enormous potential as sources of compounds to manufacture drugs and pharmaceuticals. Scientists have described more than 200,000 species of marine species, and there are no doubt many more to be discovered; yet, to date, only a limited number of these species have been explored as possible sources of therapeutic agents.
Excitement in the prospects of marine pharmacology is tempered by a growing problem that is not unfamiliar to the pharmaceutical industry: limited supply. The only sources of many compounds used to develop therapeutic drugs are organisms (such as coral or sponge) that have to be collected from fragile marine environments. Extracting the necessary compounds without damaging the environment is a major obstacle and one that Canada Research Chair Russell Kerr is working to overcome.
In his current research, Kerr is exploring different species of marine life as possible sources of new therapeutic agents and looking for benign extraction methods. In addition, since the supply of marine organisms is finite, he is developing inexpensive, commercially relevant production methods of valuable drugs or drug leads.
Kerr's laboratory-developed techniques are designed to prevent the damage to marine ecology that occurs with large scale harvesting. They are helping to ensure a safe, profitable, and growing industry in marine natural products.