Under the sea, UC San Diego researchers find promising sources to treat human diseases.
William Fenical made headlines in July when he announced a promising new candidate in the search for novel sources to treat human diseases, the latest in his long and storied biomedical research career at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
This time, Fenical identified a new compound from the ocean that effectively kills anthrax, the feared biological weapon, as well as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, the bacteria that has proliferated in recent years and proven problematic to treat. Fenical and his colleagues called the new compound “anthracimycin,” and hold hope that one day it will lead to the development of a powerful new drug.
“The real importance of this work is the fact that anthracimycin has a new and unique chemical structure,” said Fenical, a distinguished professor of oceanography and pharmaceutical science at Scripps “The discovery of truly new antibiotic compounds is quite rare. This discovery adds to many previous discoveries that show that marine bacteria are genetically and chemically unique.”
Fenical is quick to share credit for the discovery with a team of researchers in his laboratory. In this case special attention goes to Chris Kauffman, a staff research associate who has been part of Fenical’s team since 1991.
In the depths of Fenical’s research labs, Kauffman operates the group’s fermentation facility, a crucial area for teasing out promising compound candidates from the mind-boggling diversity of chemical structures found in the world’s vast oceans.
Kauffman also has emerged as the group’s field expedition leader in their search near and far for novel materials from the sea. He has logged more than 450 research dives to locations as close as La Jolla and as far as Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Palau, the Philippines, and the Red Sea.