The rare marine life on the bottom of the seas and oceans is a natural pharmacy from which scientists derive new medical drugs to treat joint and emerging diseases. Still, once a new active substance is discovered in an organism, the drug-producing companies consume it in an unfair way that threatens the survival and ecological balance of the organisms.
To overcome this thorny dilemma, a team of international researchers from Germany, Canada and Australia produced a newly discovered pharmaceutical preparation for the first time in the laboratory using biotechnology.
A natural antibiotic :
Thomas Brock, a biochemist at the Technical University of Munich, TUM, saw sea whip corals for the first time at a depth of 18 meters underwater 17 years ago in the Bahamas while diving.
The “Antillogorgia elisabethae” sea flagellum that grows in the Bahamas produces an active agent that kills the MDR-TB bacteria, strains of TB bacillus resistant to all significant anti-disease drugs.
This active agent is called Erogorgiaene, and it is a bi-terpene glucoside that has intense anti-inflammatory activity that has been demonstrated in Phase 2 clinical trials.
Using sea whip as a source of raw materials will not be economically nor ecologically feasible, as it is obtained exclusively from unsustainable extraction of coral reefs, which poses a threat to their existence.
Although it is possible to produce “ergorgian” through conventional chemical synthesis, it is multi-step, very complex and linked to toxic waste, and is not economical, as a kilogram of active agent costs about 21 thousand euros.
In order to overcome these difficulties, Brooke studied the biosynthesis of this new natural antibiotic produced by sea whip, and he and his colleagues were able to produce it sustainably in the laboratory with great speed and effectiveness.
A new sustainable way :
“If we want to protect the world’s coral reefs, we have to produce such natural products that are biologically active, through sustainable processes,” Brooke told the Technical University of Munich news site, in the press release issued on August 17th.
Together with his team at the Technical University of Munich, Brock was able to produce this active ingredient for sea lashes in the laboratory for the first time, without the need for a coral reef.
The new method consists of only two steps: the main work in both is done by genetically improved Escherichia coli bacteria, which feed on glycerol.
Sustainable biotechnology reduces production costs in a more environmentally friendly way, and the production costs of “ergogenic” will only be around 9,000 euros per kilo, according to Brock.
A great hope for a cure :
The team is now working on producing another active agent from coral reefs using biotechnology. Erogorgiaine is converted into the active agent pseudopteropsin in the laboratory.
Medical professionals attach great hope to “podopropsin” after clinical studies showed that it inhibits infections thanks to a new mechanism of action. Therefore, it is a potential therapeutic candidate for controlling inflammatory reactions, for example, Covid-19 disease Or during chronic, age-related infections.
These technologies help preserve the fragile biodiversity of the coral reef ecosystem and open a fast track for developing new active agents that are expected to enter the pharmaceutical industry after clinical trials