highest dividends in fostering the implementation of marine biotechnology in the environmental and biomedical arenas.
The U.S. public is aware of the societal benefit of effective drug therapy to treat human diseases and expects that treatment will improve and become ever more accessible to the nation’s population. This expectation is predicated on a continued and determined effort by academic scientists, government researchers, and private industry to discover new and improved drug therapies. Natural products have had a crucial role in identifying novel chemical entities with useful drug properties (Newman et al., 2000). The marine environment, with its enormous wealth of biological and chemical diversity (Fuhrman et al., 1995; Field et al., 1997; Rossbach and Kniewald, 1997), represents a treasure trove of useful materials awaiting discovery. Indeed, a number of clinically useful drugs, investigational drug candidates, and pharmacological tools have already resulted from marine-product discovery programs (Table 1). However, a number of key areas for future investigation are anticipated to increase the application and yield of useful marine bioproducts (see Fenical, p. 45 in this report). The broad areas where advances could have substantial impact on drug discovery and development are (1) accessing new sources of marine bioproducts, (2) meeting the supply needs of the drug discovery and development process, (3) improving paradigms for the screening and discovery of useful marine bioproducts, (4) expanding knowledge of the biological mechanisms of action of marine bioproducts and toxins, and (5) streamlining the regulatory process associated with marine bioproduct development.
The ocean is a rich source of biological and chemical diversity. It covers more than 70% of the earth’s surface and contains more than 300,000 described species of plants and animals. A relatively small number of marine plants, animals, and microbes have already yielded more than 12,000 novel chemicals (Faulkner, 2001).
Unexamined habitats must be explored to discover new species. Most of the environments explored for organisms with novel chemicals have been accessible by SCUBA (i.e., to 40 meters). Although some novel chemicals have been identified at high latitudes, such as the fjords of British Colum-