Abstract: Discovery of novel natural products is an accepted method for the elucidation of pharmacologically active molecules and drug leads. Best known sources for such discovery have been terrestrial plants and microbes, accounting for about 85% of the approved natural products in pharmaceutical use (1), and about 60% of approved pharmaceuticals and new drug applications annually (2). Discovery in the marine environment has lagged due to the difficulty of exploration in this ecological niche. Exploration began in earnest in the 1950s, after technological advances such as scuba diving allowed collection of marine organisms, primarily at a depth to about 15m. Natural products from filter feeding marine invertebrates and in particular, sponges, have proven to be a rich source of structurally unique pharmacologically active compounds, with over 16,000 molecules isolated thus far (3, 1) and a continuing pace of discovery at hundreds of novel bioactive molecules per year. All classes of pharmaceuticals have been represented in this discovery process, including antiprotazoals, pesticides, TGF-beta inhibitors, cationic channel blockers, anticancer, cytotoxic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial compounds. Important biosynthetic pathways found in sponges which give rise to these compounds include the terpenoid (4), fatty acid, polyketoid, quinone reductase, alkaloid, isoprenoid (5), and non-ribosomal protein synthase pathways. Keywords: natural products; marine sponges; drug discovery; terpenoids; carotenoids; polyketides; marine drug discovery
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