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Drug discovery team to explore newly discovered deep-sea reefs

e sites likely to be vibrant reef areas ahead of time, all with an understanding of the full system being explored.

The expedition will have two main goals. First, the team will use the submersible to explore those seafloor areas that appear most promising based on their sonar map contours. As this "ground truthing" work progresses, the team will be able to better predict correlations between map data and biodiversity on the bottom. Ultimately this will allow them to more accurately assess the ecological importance of the entire area, not just those small swaths observed from the submersible.

During each submersible dive, Harbor Branch experts will be collecting samples of organisms such as sponges and corals that will be tested to determine if they, or microorganisms living within them, produce chemicals with pharmaceutical potential. A key goal is to find and collect organisms that have never been seen, which happens on almost every one of the Harbor Branch team's expeditions. Other organisms will also be collected because even well known species can produce different and potentially important chemicals depending on the depth, temperature, and location at which they are found.

Harbor Branch's quest for drugs from the sea began in the early 1980s and has led to the collection of tens of thousands of marine organism samples and the identification of a number of promising potential drugs now in various stages of development for treating cancer, Alzheimer's, malaria, AIDS and other ailments.


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Source:Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution


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