By: Carol Erickson
Cancer has a major impact on our society in the U.S. and across the world. It is still among the leading causes of death worldwide. As the overall cancer rate has declined and the trend shows that progress is being made, we still have much work that needs to be done.
But now , the next revolution in cancer research has arrived and it is right here in Sarasota at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. The Mote Aquarium boasts the only center for Shark Research that is recognized by the U.S. Congress. They have spent decades studying the remarkable ways in which sharks have a very low incidence of disease, including cancer and their relatively rapid healing of wounds. Dr. Carl Luer, manager of the Marine Biomedical Research Program at Mote and Dr. Cathy Walsh, manager of the Marine Immunology Program have been investigating why sharks have this natural resistance. They have found that certain substances from the sharks immune systems have cancer fighting properties that are effective on certain human cells, yet does not destroy the good healthy cells. A miracle in the making!
They have cautioned that we are still a ways off before these findings can be tested on humans, but for the many people hungry for a possible cure for this ugly disease, the Mote Research Team has given us the one word we want to hear…HOPE…and we are extremely grateful.
From Mote Marine Laboratory press release May 26, 2015
Mote Marine Laboratory scientists are thrilled to take part in the first-ever Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge — an initiative of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation that aims to advance marine science and Southwest Florida’s “Blue Economy.”
This incentive-grant competition — likened to the XPRIZE for its focus on problem-solving innovation — is offering up to $500,000 in grants to promote meaningful solutions for enhancing Blue Economy pillars like marine science, technology, biomedicine, sustainable aquaculture, healthy fisheries and much more. Up to five teams will receive grants of $25,000 each to prototype their solutions. Then each team will present its prototype to the foundation’s Board of Directors, who will choose one team to receive up to an additional $375,000 to develop its solution for market.
The Challenge offers an exciting opportunity to build upon Florida’s significant, existing relationship with the ocean. Ocean-related economic activity contributed $17.5 billion to Florida’s gross domestic product as of 2010, according to a report from Florida Ocean Alliance.
Mote — an independent nonprofit institution dedicated to today’s research for tomorrow’s oceans — has a nearly $90-million statewide economic impact through its world-class marine science and technology development, public education and outreach.
“Mote is a leader in many of the research areas tied to our Blue Economy, but I think the Southwest Florida community doesn’t fully realize what a jewel they’ve helped create here — one of the world’s leading independent marine research institutions is right here in your backyard,” said Mote President and CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby.
Crosby said that the knowledge Mote gains from the sea is intended to have a major ripple effect. “As we make groundbreaking discoveries and develop new intellectual property, we actively seek venture groups that can build upon our results to help promote the long-term conservation sustainable use of the marine environment, while also improving the quality of life for our community and society in general.”
Mote scientists are leading or collaborating in several groundbreaking projects as part of the Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge. Below are highlights showing how Mote’s unique studies, and new partnerships emerging from them, could enable breakthroughs in human medicine and lay groundwork for science-based economic growth.
Cancer Therapies from Sharks
Click the screenshot to watch Mote’s video.
“Cancer Therapies from Sharks” — a partnership effort among Mote, University of Central Florida and commercial collaborators Sun BioPharma and Northern Capital Partners — aims to build upon Mote’s unique research with cancer-fighting substances from shark immune systems. The project seeks to bring Mote’s innovative basic research to new levels with the ultimate goal of finding and developing improved treatments for cancer patients.
“Sharks and their relatives have a low incidence of disease, and what’s particularly interesting is a low incidence of cancer,” said Dr. Carl Luer, manager of the Marine Biomedical Research Program at Mote. Luer and Dr. Cathy Walsh, manager of the Marine Immunology Program, have been investigating why sharks have this natural resistance. They’ve found that certain substances from shark immune systems have cancer-fighting properties that are effective on certain human cells.
“In the past 10-12 years, we’ve tested about 15 different human tumor cell lines, and our compounds from the shark-derived culture medium will inhibit the cancer cells in the laboratory,” Luer said. “We’ve spent a lot of time understanding the mechanism by which these compounds will kill cancer cells, and we understand that quite well. The nice thing is that it attacks cancer cells preferentially to normal cells. That’s an excellent mechanism to have when we’re looking at new compounds for therapeutic applications to cancer.”
Mote and UCF scientists hope to isolate active agent(s) from Mote’s shark-derived, cancer-fighting substance, and work with Sun BioPharma and Northern Capital experts in pharmaceutical development and finance to move the research results toward drug development, with support from the Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge and leveraged private investment. The project aims to advance a Florida-based biotech enterprise to develop and commercialize marine science and technology.
Dr. Otto Phanstiel, project scientist and Professor of Medicine at UCF, said: “Mote’s experience working with natural product sources like sharks, our skill sets isolating chemical compounds from gross mixtures, coupled with Sun BioPharma’s experience bringing drugs to market is really a dynamic team that will work, and will be successful.”