A synthetic version of the drug extracted from sea creature is a cure for cancer, researchers say.
It was in the late 1980s when chemists at the National Cancer Institute gathered 12,700 kg of the tiny sea creature Bugula neritina, aka brown bryozoan, but only yielded 18 grams of bryostatin 1. While the gathered drug was used in three clinical trials, including for cancer chemotherapy, everything just fizzled out.
However, Stanford University researchers have recently developed a synthetic version of the bryostatin 1. By recreating the drug in the laboratory, the need to gather tonnes of the brown bryozoan just to extract a good amount of the bryostatin 1 has been eradicated.
"Ordinarily, we're in the business of making chemicals that are better than the natural products. But when we started to realise that clinical trials were not being carried out, because they didn't have enough material, we decided, 'That's it, we're going to roll up our sleeves and make bryostatin because it is now in demand,'" Paul Wender, principal investigator of the research team, said.
Creating a synthetic version of bryostatin 1 has not only gotten rid of the need to harvest tonnes of the bryozoan but also shortened the process into 29 steps only. As of this writing, the research team has already yielded two grams of the drug and is expected to produce 20 grams a year once its production is scaled up. This amount, reportedly, will be enough to cure around 20, 000 cancer patients.
Apart from tens of thousands of times more efficient than the bryostatin 1 extracted from the brown bryozoan, the researchers also claim that the synthetic version of the drug can also be used in the treatment of Alzheimer's Disease and even HIV/AIDS, too. This came after an earlier research revealed that HIV-affected cells can get the boost they need from bryostatin.
"We have an opportunity to start in earnest a clinical conversation about eradicating HIV/AIDS," Wender said.