Scientists delve deep to produce key publication on marine natural products

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Scientists delve deep to produce key publication on marine natural products
Scientists delve deep to produce key publication on marine natural products

Two Griffith researchers have again led the way in compiling a vital annual compendium of hundreds of key research papers in the innovative and burgeoning field of marine natural products chemistry.

Marine natural product researchers study the chemistry of marine organisms and this provides knowledge that is applied to fields as diverse as the discovery of new medicines, understanding the ecology and health of marine ecosystems, monitoring the safety of seafood, mitigating the risks from marine venoms and documenting marine biodiversity.

Professor Tony Carroll and Associate Professor Rohan Davis from the Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery led a small international team of researchers in the collation of more than 717 scientific papers for the 2020 marine natural products review, which has been published in the prestigious and high-impact journal, Natural Product Reports.

Natural Product Reports is a critical review journal with an impact factor of 11.876 that stimulates progress in all areas of natural products research, including isolation, structural and stereochemical determination, biosynthesis, biological activity and synthesis.

The team annually reviews the published literature for new marine natural products (i.e. compounds), identified from marine microorganisms, fungi and phytoplankton, green, brown and red algae, mangroves, sponges, corals, molluscs, and many other marine invertebrates.

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Over the past decade research from around the world has contributed to a doubling in knowledge of marine chemical diversity and the latest review describes 1554 new compounds, representing a 5% increase in the total knowledge in this field.

This annual review is a highly regarded and cited compendium for researchers from around the world, and provides a snapshot of the vast literature published in the marine biodiscovery field.

The first review was published in 1984 by the late Professor John Faulkner, a pioneer in marine natural products chemistry from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the US.

After his untimely death in 2000, the stewardship of the review passed to an eminent team of New Zealand researchers led by Professor John Blunt and Professor Murray Munro from the University of Canterbury.

Upon the retirement of Profs Blunt and Munro in 2016 and in recognition of their international leadership in marine natural products research, Prof Carroll was invited to lead the review while A/Prof Davis was asked to join the authorship team, taking on the role of collating hundreds of marine biodiscovery papers associated with marine bacteria and cyanobacteria.

“It is a great honour and privilege to be associated with these influential annual reviews,” A/Prof Davis said.

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“John Faulkner started these annual chemistry reviews way back in 1984, and I remember being introduced to these wonderful encyclopedic-like publications in 1992, when I was undertaking my Honours year in marine chemistry at the University of Melbourne.

“These reviews are a wonderful and essential resource for any researcher from around the world conducting marine natural products chemistry. To now be part of a team of natural products chemists that continue to publish this highly regarded and respected Natural Products Reports review is something very special for me.”

The marine natural products review is entering its 37th year of production and the total citations for the series are over 10,000.

The 2018 instalment of the review was one of the most highly cited papers produced by Griffith University researchers in that year, a feat that Prof Carroll said is indicative of the burgeoning interest and research being performed in marine biodiscovery.

“The 2019 review is tracking at a similarly high citation rate and this latest instalment will no doubt also be highly cited,” he said.

“Australia – and Griffith in particular – have been leaders in the marine natural products research field for many decades.”

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“What Griffith excels in is the application of marine biodiscovery to find potential treatments for diseases such as malaria, cancer, microbial infections and amyloid diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and prion infections,” Prof Carroll said.

NatureBank, a uniquely Australian biodiscovery platform based at Griffith University, has been the cornerstone for marine drug discovery for close to 30 years and currently contains more than 10,000 marine specimens that have been collected by the Queensland Museum; the majority of these samples have been collected from the Great Barrier Reef.

Small quantities of this material have been processed into novel extract and fraction libraries for testing by companies and academics interested in biodiscovery, whether it be drug discovery, agrichemical, nutraceutical or cosmeceutical research.

“We also study the role of marine natural product chemistry on coral reefs and this could help in the rehabilitation of reefs affected by coral bleaching.

“It was an honour to be asked to lead the marine natural products review, and its annual publication continues to foster a deeper understanding of the significant role that marine biodiscovery plays in medicine, ecology, chemistry and the cataloguing of marine biodiversity for researchers all over the world.”

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