Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 09 Issue 01

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Volume 09, No. 1
Pages 23 - 27

Marine Biodiversity and the Medicine Cabinet: The Status of New Drugs from Marine Organisms

William Fenical
First Paragraph

Biodiversity provides the foundation in Nature for the production of diverse chemical compounds now used to treat human disease. Biodiversity translates to genetic uniqueness, which in turn results in the expression of diverse biochemical processes producing metabolic products which, in their natural settings, function mainly as defenses against predators. Natural substances used for defense have thus provided the foundation for the treatment of disease for over 3,000 years. Primitive societies, which interacted with their environments on a trial and error basis, recognized that plants contained “‘medicines” for a wide variety of maladies. This knowledge, often referred to as “ethnomedicine” was carefully documented and handed down through the centuries. Within the last 200 years, these curative, natural substances have been the focus of great interest leading ultimately to the development of the today’s pharmaceutical industry.


Fenical, W. 1996. Marine biodiversity and the medicine cabinet: The status of new drugs from marine organisms. Oceanography 9(1):23–27, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.1996.23.