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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Biomedical Potential of California Marine Organisms


The search for new pharmaceuticals continues to demand our greatest efforts. Despite tremendous advances in medical science, there are no comprehensive cures for HIV or AIDS, certain forms of cancer, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, and a large assortment of viral and fungal diseases. In fact, the incidence of some previously curable illnesses, such as tuberculosis, is on the rise due to the spread of drug-resistant infections. Currently, about half of the medicines prescribed are derived from natural sources such as terrestrial plants and micro-organisms. In addition, many drugs that are now produced by total synthesis were originally derived by modification of natural products. Although few marine natural products are currently used medicinally or are in clinical trials, marine organisms comprise the greatest unexploited source of potential pharmaceuticals. Because of the unusual diversity of chemical structures isolated from marine organisms, there is great interest in screening marine natural products in new mechanism-based bioassays.

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