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bacteria culturesPharmacology

Drug Discovery Research

The global crisis of escalating antibiotic resistance strikes at multiple facets of human health, extending beyond cancer and infectious diseases to agriculture and commerce. Increasing reports of resistant strains of bacterial pathogens show that antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at a rate that is both alarming and irreversible. It is now recognized that understanding microbial metabolism, positive and negative symbioses with hosts, and microbial community structures is critical to understanding and diverting antibiotic resistance, in addition to searching for new types of bactericidal antibiotics that act via unprecedented mechanisms.


The Earth-Oceans Interactions (EOI) Program is contributing to this work in collaboration with the Oregon State University (OSU) College of Pharmacy by identifying functional new natural products from interactions between new species of hydrothermal vent-derived microorganisms and bacterial pathogens. Very little is known about the natural products produced by deep-sea vent organisms, and thus they represent an untapped resource with great potential in the search for new drugs from the sea. Phylogenetically unique organisms from rare or extreme ecosystems represent an important resource for “mining” novel chemotypes with important biological activities relevant to human health.

Vent environments have extremely high microbial biodiversity, high productivity, and therefore high levels of interaction among species. The result of this is the production of “secondary metabolites” or bioactive chemical compounds with an ecological role. EOI scientists sample this untapped resource in a variety of geologic, chemical, and biological ecosystems and environments for drug discovery research in collaboration with OSU pharmacologists.

sampling mat microbiology diversity blue mat
ROV sampling sediments near vents. Diversity of microorganism communities.

Unusual blue mat at hydrothermal vent.