Florida frontier expedition

FT. PIERCE, Fla., May 20, 2004 -- Scientists from the new state-funded Center of Excellence in Biomedical and Marine Biotechnology will spend the next two weeks exploring never before seen sections of deepwater coral reefs rich with life off Florida's east coast and the Keys. The team, with members from Harbor Branch Oceanographic and Florida Atlantic University, will be using Harbor Branch's Johnson-Sea-Link I submersible and scuba in a search for marine creatures that produce chemicals with the potential to cure human diseases ranging from cancer to Alzheimer's.

Amazingly, vast stretches of vibrant seafloor lay unexplored just a few miles from major ports such as Miami, and the team expects to make important discoveries as they tap these previously hidden biomedical treasure troves for the first time. FAU's Department of Ocean Engineering has been using an unmanned autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to map the area and has discovered some of the promising sites that will be explored using the submersible. Regular dispatches from the expedition and photos will be posted at Harbor Branch's @Sea website, www.at-sea.org.

"Based on past work we have every reason to believe that there are cures waiting in Florida waters for a number of diseases, the only limitation has been financial," says Dr. Amy Wright, director of Harbor Branch's Biomedical Marine Research program and a co-leader of the expedition. "Funding like this for the Center of Excellence is essential for pushing this research and Florida's marine biotechnology industry forward."

Similar expeditions by Harbor Branch off Florida and around the world have already yielded numerous chemicals that show great promise in fighting cancer, infections, and other afflictions. One, a compound called discodermolide, has proven an effective cancer cell killer, even in tumors that are resistant to Taxol, one of the best treatments currently available for breast a

Contact: Mark Schrope
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution

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