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Marine Genetic Resources. A Source of New Drugs

The Experience of the Biotechnology Sector

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image of The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law

This article provides an overview of the conversion of marine genetic resources into new drugs. Three marine organisms suitable for application in human health and steps in the drug discovery process are described. Specific supply problems resulting from the minute concentration of required compounds for medicine in the natural marine source are examined. Three case studies illustrate different strategies enabling an industrial-scale production: chemical synthesis, biotechnology and fermentation. Future concepts for marine scientific research which could lead to new medical applications are considered. Besides research in unexplored deep sea areas, the “metagenomic approach” particularly might lead to significant new achievements. This DNA analysis of marine organisms facilitates the drug discovery process because it requires significantly less marine material than current approaches. Because this process, starting with the search for bioactive molecules and continuing with the production of drug-like molecules before finally reaching the status of medicine, can take up to 20 years, the development of medicine is a very long and risky venture.

Affiliations: 1: Head, Microbiology and Bioprocessing Department, PharmaMar, Spain;, Email:


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