Marine natural products drug Discovery // Drug Repurposing

Marine natural products drug Discovery

The technology underlying GlycoMar's products is based on our understanding of the fundamentals of natural products based drug discovery, glycobiology, and the therapeutic area of inflammation.

GlycoMar has taken a focused approach to discovery of novel products from marine organisms. We specialise in the isolation and purification of glycobiology products from marine organisms, excluding mammals. The original motivation for this approach is based on the drug heparin, a naturally occurring glycosaminoglycan, used for its anti-coagulant properties, but also known to have extensive anti-inflammatory activity through numerous mechanisms. The complex and variable chemistry offered by this and other related molecules underpins the range of their actions (see Glycobiology section).

Our technology taps into this chemical diversity by sourcing compounds from environments which have both unique chemical, and therefore biological, activity profiles. Compounds with preferred chemical profiles are subject to a suite of biological cell-based assays, to confirm basic characteristics (eg. lack of cytotoxicity) as well as more specific activity related to anti-inflammatory disease applications.

GlycoMar selects species for their potential to provide novel compounds, and for their availability and future environmental and commercial sustainability. Our innovative approach allows us to exploit the biological and chemical diversity of the oceans for the benefit of human health.

Diversity of Marine life

The oceans cover 70% of the earth’s surface and marine environment offers a diversity of habitats which is reflected in the biological diversity that is found in marine organisms.

Highlighted phyla, which include microalgae and marine invertebrates, have been included in GlycoMar's discovery programme. (The Diversity of marine life: Marine phyla adapted from Bouchet, P. (2006). The magnitude of marine biodiversity, in: Duarte, C.M. (Ed.) (2006). The exploration of marine biodiversity: scientific and technological challenges. pp. 31-62 )

The Earth is home to an estimated 10 million species. These are divided by biologists into 3 main kingdoms: fungi, plants and animals. The animal kingdom provides a good example of the diversity of marine organisms: it is divided into a further 33 distinct groups (or phyla), of which 11 phyla exist in terrestrial environments and 28 phyla living in the sea, of which 15 are exclusively marine. Examples of exclusively marine phyla include the echinoderms (starfish and their relatives), ctenophores (comb jellies), hemichordates (acorn worms) and the echiurans (trumpet worms).

Animal Phyla: showing marine (blue) and terrestrial (pink) Phyla with estimated species numbers.

Among the other kingdoms the marine environment is know to offer 23 protist phyla, 1 plant phylum, 1 fungal phylum, and 14 bacterial phyla. The protists include the microalgae and macroalgae, many of which are wholly marine. For more information consult the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS, and Ocean Planet exhibition (seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov/ocean_planet.html).


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An anecdotal response

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I have worked in several labs that have produced, either directly or through a spin-off company, real products that are medically useful. Scientists are the ones who create vaccines, design diagnostic devices and tests, and discover useful drugs.
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