This molecule is made naturally in marine critters but is hard to gather in large enough amounts
Lovell and Libby Langstroth © California Academy of Sciences
A seaweed-like marine invertebrate contains a molecule that has piqued interest as a drug but is in short supply: Collecting 14 tons of the critters, a type of bryozoan, yields just 18 grams of the potential medicine. Now, an efficient lab recipe might make bryostatin 1 easier to get.
Making more of the molecule could help scientists figure out whether the drug — which has shown mixed results in limited clinical trials for cancer, HIV and Alzheimer’s disease — will pan out or bomb.
Bryostatin 1, found naturally in a sea creature called Bugula neritina, has been studied as a potential drug for several decades. It interacts with an enzyme in the human body that helps regulate cell growth and control immune response. But finding a way to re-create the molecule in the lab, which would ensure a steady supply for research, has been a challenge. It’s a large, unwieldy molecule with a complex structure — multiple rings and lots of