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'Treasure Trove' In Oceans May Bring Revolutions In Medicine and Industry

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the or-may-bring-sea-monsters dept.

Biotech 107

dryriver sends this excerpt from the Guardian: "Scientists have pinpointed a new treasure trove in our oceans: micro-organisms that contain millions of previously unknown genes and thousands of new families of proteins. These tiny marine wonders offer a chance to exploit a vast pool of material that could be used to create innovative medicines, industrial solvents, chemical treatments and other processes, scientists say. Researchers have already created new enzymes for treating sewage and chemicals for making soaps from material they have found in ocean organisms. 'The potential for marine biotechnology is almost infinite,' says Curtis Suttle, professor of earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences at the University of British Columbia. 'It has become clear that most of the biological and genetic diversity on Earth is – by far – tied up in marine ecosystems, and in particular in their microbial components. By weight, more than 95% of all living organisms found in the oceans are microbial. This is an incredible resource.'"

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107 comments

Industry? (-1, Troll)

Kohath (38547) | about a year and a half ago | (#41946727)

Why would anyone in industry develop anything new when government will be taking the credit and the profits?

Re:Industry? (2)

Sperbels (1008585) | about a year and a half ago | (#41946775)

Why would anyone seek treatment for a non-fatal disease when doing so puts you in debt for decades.

Re:Industry? (4, Insightful)

gagol (583737) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947211)

Cause outside the US most people are covered by a good public health care program?

Re:Industry? (4, Insightful)

haruchai (17472) | about a year and a half ago | (#41946805)

Because you can patent it, sell it and use the profits to buy off, er, make generous campaign contributions.

Re:Industry? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41946861)

You are entirely right! Industry prefers to have the government research it and then take the credit and profits for the research. Just like industry prefers to have small businesses take the risks and then steal the business and profit from them.

Re:Industry? (3, Insightful)

r1348 (2567295) | about a year and a half ago | (#41946885)

Yes! Just like the Internet! Down with the government!

Re:Industry? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41947181)

Leaving aside that you are regurgitating stupidity right now, there is a certain fraction of humanoid life on this planet motivated by social responsibility. We call these organisms "humans".

Re:Industry? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41947247)

> Why would anyone in industry develop anything new when government will be taking the credit and the profits?

Yea, it was the gubrmment that caused the sub-prime mortgage melt-down ..

Re:Industry? (4, Informative)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947313)

Maybe because it goes the other way in reality: the government funds the basic research, and then gives to private industries, often for next to nothing, who then sell it if it's profitable. Example: taxol [wikipedia.org] .

Look at it this way: most of the bragging about government achievements is done by politicians who signed off on it telling you why they should be re-elected or elected to higher offices. Big pharma spends way more on taking credit for medical breakthroughs (or just as often, trying to tell you something that's just repackaging is actually a medical breakthrough.) Who do you think gets credit in that tug of war? It's not the government-funded scientists either way.

Re:Industry? (3, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year and a half ago | (#41951617)

And who paid to figure out if taxol worked and was safe? And how much did that cost? And how many other compounds did that company pay for clinical trials on which didn't pan out? The profits for taxol had to cover all of that.

Taxol is a rare example of when government research actually led to a useful drug. Most compounds discovered in government labs turn out to not work, but of course you don't spend $5/pill for the products that don't work, so you're less likely to complain about those. The companies who develop them certainly spend money on them though.

I'm all for having some end-to-end government R&D with the resulting compounds freely licensed to manufacturers in any country that reciprocates, but don't think that it will be any less expensive in the end then what we're paying for pills today. The main difference would be that the costs are borne by taxpayers rather than patients, which has the benefit of being more progressive.

Government does some of the most important drug research there is. However, it also turns out to be some of the least expensive. There are still tons of expenses to be recouped once compounds are licensed or developed by a pharmaceutical company - and somebody has to pay for them. Most drugs lose money, and a few drugs make TONS of money. The industry has been pretty stagnant for a decade, so you can't just look at the one side of things.

Death (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41946767)

We'll wipe out all ocean life before we can fully reap the benefits.

Re:Death (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41946835)

We'll wipe out all planet life before we can fully reap the benefits.

Re:Death (4, Insightful)

Genda (560240) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947291)

Sorry guys, but you need to park that expanded self opinion someplace. Life on the planet is just fine. Hell, after the big asteroid hit, the earth was blasted, smothered, roasted, frozen, and left in the dark for month or years. Ten million years later an the diversity was extraordinary. We're the endangered species, and yeah we'll take out a slew of vertebrates with us.

Re:Death (2, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#41948385)

Hell, after the big asteroid hit, the earth was blasted, smothered, roasted, frozen, and left in the dark for month or years.

Asteroid? Asteroid? You Late Cretaceous sissies, you young whippersnappers, if you had any idea what happened to us in the Permian, you'd shut up and look away in embarrassment. You have no idea what killed us. Heck, we don't even have an idea what killed us!

Sincerely yours, Gorgonops from south-western Pangaea.

Re:Death (0)

Raenex (947668) | about a year and a half ago | (#41949121)

We're the endangered species

Nope. Humans are too smart and adaptable.

Re:Death (2)

Yobgod Ababua (68687) | about a year and a half ago | (#41950181)

HAhahahahahahahahahahhahahaah....

Ow, my sides.

Re:Death (1)

Raenex (947668) | about a year and a half ago | (#41950617)

Laugh all you want, but the facts speak for themselves. The population has grown to billions of people and we live in all kinds of environments. Of course it's popular to be self-loathing and cynical on Slashdot, facts be damned.

Re:Death (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41950879)

> Laugh all you want, but the facts speak for themselves.

The facts do speak for themselves. You just heard it wrong. Humans are extremely fragile and dependent on a number of narrow band ranges in the environment. Manufacture of devices, which is dependent on large populations of humans existing for extended periods of time are all the "adaptation" that humans have. Most people don't grasp simple maths, much less the overall nature of human success. Operating that cash register device is probably just your thing.

Re:Death (0)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#41952409)

The facts do speak for themselves. You just heard it wrong. Humans are extremely fragile and dependent on a number of narrow band ranges in the environment. Manufacture of devices, which is dependent on large populations of humans existing for extended periods of time are all the "adaptation" that humans have.

Tunnel vision on your part. What, smelting iron requires "large populations of humans existing for extended periods of time"? What about making plows, bows, and arrows, building houses...we had to wait for New York to appear to do these things? We have vastly overpopulated the planet (compared to the average mammal) even before we entered the modern gadgety era.

I saw this TV show. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41946797)

SeaQuest DSV. It was on NBC I think.

Almost infinite? (4, Funny)

jomegat (706411) | about a year and a half ago | (#41946813)

What does "almost infinite" even mean?

Re:Almost infinite? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41946855)

A whole lot. But like oil, not forever. It's driving a point. Your being too logical.

Re:Almost infinite? (4, Funny)

lessthan (977374) | about a year and a half ago | (#41946877)

Almost infinite means nearly limitless. Does that help?

Re:Almost infinite? (0, Redundant)

fm6 (162816) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947095)

No, because you've just replaced one illogical expression with another. An infinite value remains infinite, regardless of any finite value you subtract from it.

Of course, what they're trying to say is "this resource is so big we can't imagine ever using it up." Which, of course, says little about their imagination.

Re:Almost infinite? (3, Funny)

Livius (318358) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947411)

Of course, what they're trying to say is "this resource is so big we can't imagine ever using it up." Which, of course, says little about their imagination.

Actually, it says everything about their imagination. Or rather, lack thereof.

Re:Almost infinite? (2)

epine (68316) | about a year and a half ago | (#41948029)

"Almost infinite" could serve as meaning creating new varieties faster than we can detect and sequence the little bastards, for a pessimistic extension of Moore's law.

Here's a second good candidate for "almost infinite":

The latest research shows that even the most powerful future experiments (like SKA, Planck) will not be able to distinguish between flat, open and closed universe if the true value of cosmological curvature parameter is smaller than 10^-4.

Q: How big is the universe?
A: Physicists believe the universe is infinite, almost.

Re:Almost infinite? (2)

fm6 (162816) | about a year and a half ago | (#41950415)

So fine, in the context of cosmological curvature, "almost infinite" makes sense. In the context of natural resources, "almost infinite" means "I'll be dead by the time it's used up."

Re:Almost infinite? (1)

davester666 (731373) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947843)

Yes. It means that it'll take some time for them to patent everything.

Re:Almost infinite? (5, Interesting)

JWSmythe (446288) | about a year and a half ago | (#41946879)

    It means that we'll farm it to the edge of extinction, and then ponder what happened to them all... Kinda like...

Hunting whales for blubber, and then wondering why there whales are almost extinct. [stanford.edu]

Using pesticide on virtually everything, and then wondering why bees are dying off. [nbcnews.com]

Farming marginally arid land, and being surprised by the result. [wikipedia.org]

I'm not an environmentalist wingnut. Sometimes the answer to "what could possibly go wrong" is really obvious.

Re:Almost infinite? (4, Informative)

fm6 (162816) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947079)

I thoroughly agree with the point you're trying to make. But note that pesticides are not that strongly implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder. The problem is unknown in Australia, where pesticides are just as heavily used as anywhere else. It is extremely likely that it's due to some kind of environmental stress, which fits in with your abuse-of-resources theme.

Re:Almost infinite? (3, Interesting)

dbIII (701233) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947165)

The problem is unknown in Australia, where pesticides are just as heavily used as anywhere else

Pesticides have been expensive in Australia due to few suppliers having close to a monopoly so they might be used less than some other places, plus there were some deaths from overexposure decades ago that got a lot of press and seem to have had farm workers take care with concentrations ever since. There is also a lot of uncleared land so pesticide use may be in "islands" surrounded by the whole instead of the other way around in as in other places more intensively farmed.

Also, what would be called "organic" in some places is the norm for some things in Australia since the plant that comes from overseas may not have a local pest. For some things, a physical barrier (tunnel houses or bags around bananas) does the job without pesticides but that is relatively recent and may be part of chasing after an "organic" label and not widespread.

However there are some places in Australia where pesticides have been used a lot but there are still plenty of bees, so even if pesticides are used less on average in Australia than other places it still doesn't tell us anything about the bees.

Re:Almost infinite? (2)

fm6 (162816) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947611)

One theory I've heard is that the huge demand for pollination services in most countries has kept beekeeper moving their hives around all the time, often transporting them thousands of miles at a time. This stresses the colonies and makes them susceptible to a variety of ailments. This practice is supposed to be much less prevalent in Oz. This is consistent with the fact that there's no obvious link between CCD and any single external factor.

None of which should be construed as a defense of indiscriminate use of pesticides. That most definitely does cause all kind of problems. CCD just doesn't happen to be one of them.

Re:Almost infinite? (1)

deimtee (762122) | about a year and a half ago | (#41949201)

It's pretty well established that it's neonicotinoid insecticides. Bees are very sensitive to them, and even amounts too small to directly kill the bees still weaken them enough for other things to kill the hives.

Re:Almost infinite? (1)

fm6 (162816) | about a year and a half ago | (#41950389)

The sources I've read say otherwise. We can have a link duel if you want, but I find them boring.

Re:Almost infinite? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41949647)

I saw an article on CCD and the problem they said was a fungus or mold or some shit that was killing the bees and they had no defense for it.

Re:Almost infinite? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41950017)

The problem is unknown in Australia, where pesticides are just as heavily used as anywhere else.

Do you have actual proof for this claim?

Re:Almost infinite? (1)

mikael (484) | about a year and a half ago | (#41951871)

The latest theory is "zombees". https://www.zombeewatch.org./ [www.zombeewatch.org]

Re:Almost infinite? (1)

fm6 (162816) | about a year and a half ago | (#41952297)

A little more care with your URLs?

From the site: "CCD probably is caused by multiple contributing factors including pathogens, parasites and pesticides. Honey bees parasitized by Apocephalus borealis abandon their hive, a behavior associated with CCD. One of our goals is to determine how big a role, if any, the fly plays in hive losses in various parts of North America."

Re:Almost infinite? (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about a year and a half ago | (#41953267)

According to the wiki page, USDA research says that pesticides may be implicated in CCD. There's a long list of suspected causes on that page but the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that the real cause is currently unkown.

Re:Almost infinite? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41946887)

What does "almost infinite" even mean?

The number 8.

Re:Almost infinite? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41947011)

Ten raised almost literally to the power of infinity!

Re:Almost infinite? (3, Insightful)

jamesh (87723) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947091)

What does "almost infinite" even mean?

Kind of like infinity, but just a little bit less.

I've been doing a bit of work with pacemaker clusters lately, and infinity there is defined to be 1000000 [clusterlabs.org] , so I guess "almost infinite" is around 999998.

More likely, "almost infinite" means that obviously they know it's not actually infinite, but there are more than they'll ever get to analyse in their lifetimes so the difference doesn't have any meaning.

Re:Almost infinite? (3, Insightful)

siddesu (698447) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947167)

In slightly more general numeric terms, finite is much below 9000, almost infinite is the interval from there up to and including 9000, and everything over 9000 is infinite.

Re:Almost infinite? (3, Funny)

Arancaytar (966377) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947193)

pacemaker clusters

Who needs more than one pacemaker? I mean, unless you're from Gallifrey or something.

(...Yes, yes, I was just making a funny.)

Re:Almost infinite? (2)

tbird81 (946205) | about a year and a half ago | (#41948315)

It was a beowulf cluster of pacemakers. Can you imagine the power of this?

Re:Almost infinite? (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947209)

Infinity is not a quantity.

Re:Almost infinite? (1)

jamesh (87723) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947447)

Infinity is not a quantity.

Does that make "almost infinity" == "almost not a quantity"?

Re:Almost infinite? (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#41948025)

Infinity is not a quantity.

Of course not. Every mathematician knows it's an infinite number of quantities.

Re:Almost infinite? (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947243)

More likely, "almost infinite" means that obviously they know it's not actually infinite, but there are more than they'll ever get to analyse in their lifetimes so the difference doesn't have any meaning.

Lifetime is the key word here: almost infinite means that we can screw the ecosystem and we will not face the consequences. Our children will, but we do not care

Re:Almost infinite? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41947201)

Read your sig.

Re:Almost infinite? (1)

Genda (560240) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947311)

Infinite minus 5...

Re:Almost infinite? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41947709)

What does "almost infinite" even mean?

In this instance, the word "almost" is a synonym for "practically." And as we all know, "practically" means "not really, but I'm going to pretend like it is." [basicinstructions.net]

Re:Almost infinite? (1)

ablestmage (2664941) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947743)

Think of it as approaching the unreachable speed of light..

Re:Almost infinite? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41949133)

Think of it as approaching the unreachable speed of light..

But light reaches it in a vacuum.

Re:Almost infinite? (1)

krashnburn200 (1031132) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947887)

it means there aren't enough fingers/toes even when I line up ALL my grad students to count that high!

Re:Almost infinite? (1)

chill (34294) | about a year and a half ago | (#41948745)

Now you know what that little "infinity minus 1" symbol used in math class really means.

I always wondered.

Hooray! Let's patent the SHIT out of the oceans! (3, Insightful)

Qubit (100461) | about a year and a half ago | (#41946843)

Sorry, was I being too cynical there?

But actually, is someone going to try to patent the shit (read: actual shit) that comes out of the oceans? Because I think that they really might try...

Re:Hooray! Let's patent the SHIT out of the oceans (1)

Biotech_is_Godzilla (2634385) | about a year and a half ago | (#41948491)

Interesting you should say that. Cos (from TFA) one of the people sampling bacteria from around the coastlines of the US and South America is Craig Venter, the bloke who led the effort to sequence and privatise the human genome. So yeah, at least one person IS trying to do exactly that.

Not allowed! (5, Funny)

cvtan (752695) | about a year and a half ago | (#41946859)

Too bad PETA will not allow us to exploit bacteria in this cruel manner. You have to ask their permission first. Individually.

Re:Not allowed! (1)

EdIII (1114411) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947037)

I'm okay with PETA. Yes, they are mildly annoying, but they more than make up for it in sheer amusement [peta.org] and very compelling PSA pictures [google.com] .

Re:Not allowed! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41947099)

Looks heavily photoshopped though.

Re:Not allowed! (1)

aliquis (678370) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947935)

Regarding the later picture I suppose fatter and older chicks.

Anyway, vegan since 15+ years and lacto-ovo-vegetarian since about 25 year here but European and I think Peta is lame and have never understood this nudity crap.

Guess it may be how US society and culture work but it's lame. "Look! Nude chick! I agree! Chicks should be nude!"

Over here the information would be about actual animals. And back in the good days people would --removed due to shitty spying governments-- than get nekkid.

Re:Not allowed! (3, Insightful)

dasunt (249686) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947973)

Anyway, vegan since 15+ years and lacto-ovo-vegetarian since about 25 year here but European and I think Peta is lame and have never understood this nudity crap.

Vegan, American, and still think PETA is lame.

To put it in perspective for non-vegs, think of the most inane, zealous type of individual who supports the same political views as you do. The sort of individual who does more damage to your beliefs than the most ardent opponent. That's PETA in a nutshell.

Extinction in the ocean (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41946957)

Too bad humankind is causing mass extinctions and loss of biodiversity in the ocean, just as he is on land.

Re:Extinction in the ocean (1)

Genda (560240) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947777)

What's the old proverb? Don't shit where you eat! Would seem the folks in charge haven't heard it. We strip mine the oceans at the same time we use them for toilets. That's okay, the jellyfish are gonna do really well. They have put up with every cataclysm for most of the last billion years, We aren't even a speed bump in that kind of biological staying power. Other ocean going species will have a harder time of it.

Re:Extinction in the ocean (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41949181)

Too bad humankind is causing mass extinctions and loss of biodiversity in the ocean, just as he is on land.

By turning air pollution into water pollution.

Great! (4, Insightful)

fm6 (162816) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947021)

We've used up all the fish [nytimes.com] . Now we can work on the smaller stuff!

Re:Great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41947763)

We've used up all the fish.

Is that why the whales are leaving our oceans? ("...thanks for all the fish.")

Re:Great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41949311)

We've used up all the fish.

Is that why the whales are leaving our oceans? ("...thanks for all the fish.")

Exactly. Its not thanks for some of the fish.

Re:Great! (5, Funny)

Genda (560240) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947781)

Its krill or be krilled

Re:Great! (1)

fm6 (162816) | about a year and a half ago | (#41950397)

That joke was microscopic!

Re:Great! (1)

mikael (484) | about a year and a half ago | (#41951883)

I'm kraken up with laughter and rolling about on the ocean floor.

Yah, really? (4, Insightful)

TexVex (669445) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947109)

I'm old enough to remember when the Rain Forest was the "treasure trove" of new medicines.

Even then, the documentarians had the wit to point out that the main goal of researching all those new wonderful plant cures would be to figure out how they could create synthetic versions of nature's miracles and patent them.

So, you know what? I don't give a shit. If somebody finds something revolutionary and decides to share it with humanity, then by all means please slap me around some and make sure I am aware of it. Because not even the invention of aspirin (developed from old common knowledge about the medicinal properties of willow bark) went without patent-related controversy.

Re:Yah, really? (1)

Caesar Tjalbo (1010523) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947227)

I'm old enough to remember when the Rain Forest was the "treasure trove" of new medicines.

Novel approach:
1. take an almost infinite number of monkeys and have them hammer out sequences of GATC to create a vast pool of previously unknown genes,
2. ...
3. treasure trove.

Re:Yah, really? (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947647)

I'm sure step 2 is going to be real easy. Let's get our simian pharmaceutical computing cluster cranking. Um, how many bananas does that need?

Re:Yah, really? (1)

webmistressrachel (903577) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947747)

An almost infinite amount...

Re:Yah, really? (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#41949183)

I was thinking, "If you have to ask how many bananas that'll take, then you can't afford it."

Not genes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41949119)

...that's exactly what biotech companies do right now to develop new RNAi libraries. microRNAs are a lot shorter than protein-coding genes, so they generate a big library of random short sequences, then see what they do in target organisms.

Of course, the lab is always much smaller than the ocean, and the project schedule is always much shorter than geologic time, so there's good reason to look at what nature has already randomly thrown together instead.

Re:Yah, really? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947263)

figure out how they could create synthetic versions of nature's miracles and patent them.

We have too many frivolous patents, but not all patents are frivolous. If someone goes to the trouble and expense of identifying a naturally occurring chemical, finding a disease that it cures, and figures out how to synthesize and apply it, that is not frivolous. Encouraging that kind of investment in research is exactly why we have patents.

Re:Yah, really? (4, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947391)

A more recent example than asprin would be Taxol/Paclitaxel [wikipedia.org] . Discovered in 1967 from the bark of the Pacific yew tree, and useful in treating cancer.

Anyway, stories such as these are to inform if you're interested. News for nerds and all that. You don't give a shit, that's fine. No one was expecting you to get off your couch and start helping search for the cure for cancer as a result of this story. So go back to whatever it was you were doing. Maybe reading about apple suing samsung or something exciting like that. The biology community apologizes for this not being as interesting as you would hope. We'll get back to searching the ends of the earth for the cure to cancer. We probably won't bother slapping you around if we find anything useful though. Just maybe think about supporting funding for the NIH or cancer research. As miraculous as taxol is (saved my mother's life, breast cancer), the side effects are tough. You really want us searching the oceans and rainforests for better drugs before you develop cancer yourself.

Re:Yah, really? (1)

inode_buddha (576844) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947719)

You too? These articles tend to pop up every 5 or 10 years. I remember when they thought there was going to be all kinds of stuff from coral reefs.

Re:Yah, really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41951339)

I am old enough to remember when outside the cave was the "treasure trove".

Inside also!

Re:Yah, really? (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year and a half ago | (#41952937)

The problem with what you suggest is who is going to pay for it? Finding neat new molecules/ideas is interesting and exciting, so academics tend to be interested in this and the NIH tends to fund it. Figuring out if those new molecules/ideas actually work or if they cause cancer is boring and expensive, so that doesn't get funded, except by corporations who of course patent them. Actually, more often the model is that the universities that come up with them patent them and sell them to corporations to help defray their own costs (they don't get much for them, because 95% of the time they don't work out).

The only way anybody would actually come up with a big drug and share it with the world is if the world pays for it in advance - sight unseen. I'm all for finding ways to make that happen, but right now we don't fund organizations like the NIH to do this sort of work.

Drug R&D is kind of like selling sealed packs of baseball cards. You can either leave them sealed and get a moderate amount for them, or break them open and get much less, or a LOT more. At the stage where the government stops doing R&D they're like a sealed package, and when the corporations are done they're opened up. Of course, they don't actually sell the ones that aren't worth anything, because nobody would buy them.

Lot of butt-hurt slashdotters here tonight (2)

Andy Prough (2730467) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947177)

I for one welcome our nearly infinite sea-faring microbial overlords.

Craig Venter also did this 2003-2006: GOSE (4, Informative)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year and a half ago | (#41947255)

Craig Venter [wikipedia.org] also did this in the not-so-distant past after working on the Human Genome Project. It was called the Global Ocean Sampling Expedition (GOSE) which was an ocean exploration genome project [wikipedia.org] .

GOSE also aimed to trawl the bio-diversity of marine life in order to perform metagenomics [wikipedia.org] analysis and find out about the diversity of marine genetic material. All of the data was put into UC-San-Diego's division of Cal-I-T2 (a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Institute_for_Telecommunications_and_Information_Technology>California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology

just the genetic sequences ... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41947277)

and not the bacteria (or other marine organisms etc.) theirselves are of interest.

While some people point out the right problems (IP, patents, etc.) others seem to think that the researchers suggest '(over)fishing' the bacteria.
Nope, they're only interesting as a source of yet unknown enzymes.
But this is done everywhere, metagenomics (collecting 'just' DNA from soil/marine/etc. samples) is a new approach to make use of mother nature's diversity.
(The cool thing about this approach is, while it's generally impossible to cultivate most of these organisms, as their habitat and environment are rather unknown, it's rather easy to "boil everything up" and sequence any remaining DNA. This approach is just getting possible by better possibilites in sequencing and bioinformatics)

Having heard a lecture on the subject recently, I can tell you that these approaches are especially great as they rather quickly deliver working results:
Imagine you wanted to perform a certain reaction by biotechnological means. There might be enzymes which do something similar, but not quite right - then it's nice if you can look for 'similars' in a large database and hopefully find one which better suits your means.
For example could a marine micro organism from arctic regions contain enzymes especially optimized for colder temperatures.
Imagine one of these in your laundry detergent, allowing even lower temperatures in the washing machine, saving energy and CO2 ... there you go, biotech saves the planet ;)

From what I know, these JC Venter metagenomic sequences from marine samples are just deposited in public databases, and not yet patented. How could they? Without any further analysis or use, one can hardly file a patent.

Would you kindly... (2)

lourd_baltimore (856467) | about a year and a half ago | (#41948111)

Investigate the regenerative properties of some sea slugs?

"An incredible resource!" a depressing statement (1)

LostMonk (1839248) | about a year and a half ago | (#41948801)

Am I the only one finds the last statement "This is an incredible resource!" depressing?! Is everything always measured by how it can be of use and profit us people? I firmly believe that before long the only organisms left on earth will be the ones humans couldn't find ANY use for -- and the list does not include other humans.

Re:"An incredible resource!" a depressing statemen (1)

EzInKy (115248) | about a year and a half ago | (#41948961)

You probably are being as how the by definition survival of the fittest means you must be fit to survive. If the predominte organism on the planet finds another organism is useful to them they will do anything they can do make sure it's competitors do not survive. Your firm belief has no real basis in reality.

Mary Mary Quite Contrary ANOTHER FAIL (1)

TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) | about a year and a half ago | (#41949043)

As usual, the scientists FAIL to point out that the overwhelming majority of these 'tiny marine wonders' are of no practical use whatsoever. They swim around doing worthless and pointless things, they are comprised of useless and ridiculous materials you could find anywhere. Their genetic code, though voluminous and subtle, lacks any hint of cohesive plot interest and character development and reading it is a real waste of time. As usual we are supposed to imagine some cornucopia of miracle medicines emanating from these creatures -- prescription bottles full of wonder drugs just bobbing to the surface, a Gift From Neptune To You. Ha ha pharma brochure crap. Because they're small and cute and overlooked and your attention is being drawn to them it's supposed to be wonderful, but let me tell you almost 100% of what these creatures produce is useless sludge and they're too stupid to even care how dumb they are.

I treasure my beloved planet, every nook and cranny hold a new mystery at which to gawk and squawk.

You may think this is a good idea but (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year and a half ago | (#41949045)

It's all fun and games until you start trying to harvest Cthulhu. Then what?

DMCA (1)

seven of five (578993) | about a year and a half ago | (#41949097)

In other news, Poseidon has just decreed the Digital Marine Copyright Act, which expressly forbids oceanic IP theft and DNA reverse engineering by land dwellers.

You guys are falling for the buzz (2)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year and a half ago | (#41949109)

Some tiny startup is planning to go hunting for sugar daddy venture capital. They have hired some PR firm to plant fluff pieces to create a buzz. Probably the same firm that cleaned up on "treasure trove of genetic goodies in the rain forest" crowd. They never change the modus operandi. What worked once will always work again.

We can fix that.... (1)

3seas (184403) | about a year and a half ago | (#41949475)

... lets leak more Radioactive waste and other garbage into the oceans....while we continue to deforest rain forest... Gotta love Capitalism extremism .....

There is another option.... See article starting on page 73 http://iamb.net/IJMB/journal/IJMB_Vol_3_1.pdf [iamb.net]

Simply put... brain/mind change is required for us to not destroy ourselves.

Old dogs can learn new tricks...

your biome increases year genes a hundredfold (1)

peter303 (12292) | about a year and a half ago | (#41952667)

90% of the cells in your body are alien bacteria from more than a thousand species. These do some essential functions like create vitamins and nutrients were cannot ourselves.

Rain Forest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41952837)

See. Who needs those filthy rain forests when we have the ocean.

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