By Brittany Shoot
Pharmaceuticals are derived from a weird, wide range of natural and synthetic sources. Thanks to scientists who probe every inch of the globe, one increasingly common source for discovering natural compounds is the ocean. The anti-tumor drug trabectedin was originally made from extract from a sea squirt. Ziconotide, an analgesic for severe and chronic pain, comes from a cone snail.
Sirenas, a San Diego, California-based company, specializes in discovering marine-based therapeutics. A team from the startup goes out, an average, four times a year to bioprospect, seeking out and harvesting plant and animal species that may contain compounds helpful in treating diseases plaguing millions around the world, including malaria, tuberculosis and a variety of difficult-to-treat and incurable cancers. In the Central Pacific, California and Florida coasts, and the Caribbean, the divers are particularly interested in sea sponges and algae, such as cyanobacteria, commonly known as blue-green algae.
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