[ASC-media] ASC-media alert

Wendy Ellery w.ellery at aims.gov.au
Thu May 13 08:45:40 EST 2004


MEDIA RELEASE 12 May 2004 

New marine antibiotics to fight disease  

The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) has discovered new 
and exciting chemical leads in some marine organisms that may help to 
fight neglected world diseases and overcome the increasing problem of 
antibiotic resistance.

Leader of the AIMS biodiscovery team, Dr Lyndon Llewellyn, said there 
is a plethora of diseases globally that are deemed uneconomic by 
large pharmaceutical companies to focus on, remaining untreatable by 
drugs. Examples include diseases like tuberculosis and leprosy, 
endemic in developing countries.

In addition, available treatments for disease rely on antibiotics 
that are failing due to the growing number of drug resistant 
"superbugs".

The AIMS biodiscovery team has begun pursuing chemical compounds that 
use new and unique ways to attack pathogens. They believe there are 
chemicals locked in the ocean floor that have the potential to be as 
successful as penicillin.

Dr Llewellyn said from a large number of initial leads (in the 
hundreds), there is significant opportunity to find new and exciting 
antibiotics. 

  "Already screening tests for antibiotic activity against E. coli, 
Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans have unearthed promising 
leads," Dr Llewellyn said.

"We've found organisms that produce chemicals that selectively kill 
the pathogen or infectious agent," he said. "This selectivity 
indicates the chemicals may be acting in novel ways."

"Pathogens have evolved to tolerate present therapy. Many diseases, 
especially infectious diseases, are re-emerging health problems for 
both developed and developing countries," he said.

A more diverse antibiotics arsenal is needed to combat new pathogens 
but the production of new antibiotics has almost come to a standstill.

AIMS' exploration of Australia's marine environment for drug 
candidates has tapped into a previously unexplored resource of 
chemicals and is filling a critical gap in antibiotic research and 
discovery.

The Institute possesses one of the world's largest publicly owned 
collections of biotic extracts used for bioactive chemical discovery, 
including material from around 20,000 marine macroscopic and 
microscopic organisms from around Australia. 

While history has proven marine natural products to be a rich source 
of new bioactive chemicals as leads for drug development, most target 
anti-cancer activity.

Dr Llewellyn said while nature's chemicals are central to the 
discovery and development of new treatments for diseases, drug 
production from these chemicals discovered at AIMS is some years off.


Media Contacts
Wendy Ellery, AIMS Media Liaison, 07 4753 4409; 0418 729 265, email 
w.ellery at aims.gov.au
Dr Lyndon Llewellyn, AIMS Biodiscovery Team Leader, email 
l.llewellyn at aims.gov.au


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