Shirley Pomponi is the executive director of the Cooperative Institute Ocean Exploration Research and Technology (CIOERT) of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University. Dr. Pomponi’s research focuses on the systematics and cell biology of marine sponges. A major emphasis of her research has been on the development of methods for sustainable use of marine resources for drug discovery and development. She has led numerous research expeditions to the tropical western Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean, and to the Galapagos Islands, Australia, New Zealand, American Samoa, Seychelles, Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, and Lake Baikal, Russia. Dr. Pomponi has served as chair of the National Research Council’s Ocean Studies Board, vice-chair of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, and president-elect of the Southern Association of Marine Laboratories. She is a member of the Florida Oceans and Coastal Council, the Ocean Research and Resources Advisory Panel, the U.S. National Committee for the Census of Marine Life, and the National Association of Marine Laboratories. Dr. Pomponi is a member of the Society for In Vitro Biology, the Society for Biomolecular Screening, and the American Society for Cell Biology. She also served on the President’s Ocean Exploration Panel. Dr. Pomponi received her Ph.D. in biological oceanography from the University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
The Oceans and Human Health: The Discovery and Development of Marine-Derived Drugs
The oceans are a rich source of both biological and chemical diversity. During the past two decades, thousands of novel marine-derived biochemicals have been identified. Many have the potential for development as new pharmaceuticals to treat diseases such as cancer and drug-resistant infections. The challenges facing continued discovery are both technical, such as developing new tools to explore habitats and collect and test organisms never before studied, as well as political, such as complying with regulations related to the rights of a country to its natural resources. Successful discovery and development of marine derived pharmaceuticals will depend on our ability to address a number of questions. What organism produces the bioactive compound, and why? Can we apply this knowledge to our rapidly increasing understanding of the human genome and human disease processes? Are there viable alternatives to harvesting for sustainable use of marine natural resources for drug development? And finally, what constitutes a fair and equitable sharing of revenues resulting from commercialization of marine resources, as mandated by the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity? Addressing these questions will require the collaboration of marine and biomedical scientists and the cooperation of industry and government.
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