From the ocean to the pharmacy: Studying marine organisms for potential human health advances

Kayla Wilson, a scientific diver and Ph.D. student in Professor Bradley Moore's lab at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, prepares to take the plunge into the ocean to collect sponges and corals for further study. (Brittany Edelmann/MEDILL)

By Brittany Edelmann
Medill Reports

Scientific divers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego explore the ocean to collect marine organisms, such as corals and sponges. They bring them just steps away from the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier to the Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine to study them further. The hope is that by doing so, they can improve human health through the discovery of new potential medicines and other impacts.

A few decades ago, William Fenical, a distinguished professor of oceanography and pharmaceutical sciences at Scripps, and other scientists started collecting marine organisms to study their chemistry and “see what they’re making.” They discovered “unique” compounds with therapeutic potential.

Bradley Moore, a professor of marine chemical biology at Scripps; a postdoctoral fellow in his lab, Immo Burkhardt; Ph.D. student Kayla Wilson; and Fenical, explain more about marine organisms and their potential to inspire a life-saving drug, what scientists are doing in terms of sustainability and genomics, as well as the importance of taking care of the ocean.

Brittany Edelmann is a registered nurse and health and science reporter. Follow her on twitter @brittedelmann