Medicines from the Deep

Reef_assemblage_at_Rheeder's_Reef_P2277153IN THE OCEANS’ DARKEST DEPTHS, superheated water seeps from cracks on the seabed. This lightless world supports exotic creatures like tubeworms and giant clams. It’s their very oddity that makes them exciting to OSU medicinal chemist Kerry McPhail. That’s because organisms from extreme environments have novel chemistries to match their novel habitats. The thick bacterial mats coating vent “chimneys,” for instance, are being studied in McPhail’s lab, along with a South African sea squirt (tunicate) and a Panamanian compound with anticancer properties. McPhail and OSU colleague Jane Ishmael are studying the potential benefit of using coibamide A from Panama to treat aggressive brain cancers.