Marine natural products are a continued focus for drug discovery and have provided many important therapeutic agents. Lead compounds with biomedical potential have been isolated from marine invertebrates, bacteria, and fungi. Each year numerous compounds with an array of biological activities are reported, but to-date only 13 molecules have entered into the clinical pipeline. Four molecules have been approved for clinical use, one of which is approved only in the EU. The approved molecules include two nucleosides based on sponge-derived nucleosides, a cone snail peptide, and a metabolite isolated from a tunicate. Marine microbes have received growing attention as the sources for bioactive metabolites and have great potential to increase the number of marine natural products in clinical trials. The sustainable and economic supply of the active pharmaceutical ingredient is often easier to achieve for compounds produced through microbial fermentation approaches versus the cultivation of slower growing macroorganisms.
Marine natural products provide an excellent opportunity to study diverse and unique compounds not readily accessible from any other source leading to expansion of the pharmaceutical pipeline. Marine microbes can produce unique compounds covering new chemical space, and the utility of marine natural products is expanding beyond its original role in identification of new prototype drug leads into fields of study involving sustainable supplies of unique molecules using biosynthesis in conjunction with synthesis. Perhaps the greatest impact marine natural products has played is in revealing that unexplored and previously inaccessible chemical space can contribute to growth in the pharmaceutical pipeline. Improved methodologies in fermentation technologies, biosynthesis, and synthesis provide opportunities to both create and supply drug leads that would not be available by any single method independently. As a result pharmaceutical biotechnology in the future is certain to provide increasingly sophisticated molecular architecture assembled using biosynthesis and synthesis in concert.
The expanding role of marine microbes in pharmaceutical development. Curr Opin Biotechnol. Oct 16 2010
Marine microbes have received growing attention as sources of bioactive metabolites and offer a unique opportunity to both increase the number of marine natural products in clinical trials as well as expedite their development. This review focuses specifically on those molecules currently in the clinical pipeline that are established or highly likely to be produced by bacteria based on expanding circumstantial evidence. We also include an example of how compounds from harmful algal blooms may yield both tools for measuring environmental change as well as leads for pharmaceutical development. An example of the karlotoxin class of compounds isolated from the dinoflagellate Karlodinium veneficum reveals a significant environmental impact in the form of massive fish kills, but also provides opportunities to construct new molecules for the control of cancer and serum cholesterol assisted by tools associated with rational drug design.