The Department of Earth Sciences will expand its existing programme of 'drugs from the sea' to more institutes to harness the active bio-compounds of marine organisms for therapeutic purposes.

Continuing with its programme which has already made some results in developing a number of molecules as potential source of drugs, more institutions will be involved in the programme in a phased manner.

During XI Plan period, six more new centres — Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer (ACTREC), Mumbai, Topiwala National Medical College (TNMC) & BYL Nair Ch. Hospital, Mumbai, Central Institute of Fisheries Education (CIFE), Mumbai, Department of Fisheries, Government of West Bengal, Kolkata, Madras University, Chennai, and Annamalai University, Parangipettai — have been inducted and the mechanism of implementation of the programme would be modified in order to expedite all the activities related to drugs discovery and development with state-of-the-art facilities, sources said.

Recently, the Parliamentary standing committee for science and technology has observed that the discovery, development and production of drugs from marine bacteria, fungi, microalgae and sponges remained largely in the realm of experimentation. "The committee observes that there is a need to look at this aspect more thoroughly and therefore, recommends extensive research and study to harness bioactive compounds from the marine organisms for human therapeutic purposes. The committee also recommends that the extraction and development of potential drugs and chemicals from the depth of the ocean should be pursued with well-focused mechanism. It further recommends that clinical stage trials should be expedited so that drugs are available in the market at the earliest for the benefit of the people," the panel said.

Responding to the report, the department sources said more financial support is needed to strengthen participation of more centres located along the coastal States including Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) Islands. The Ministry has taken action to explore deep sea organisms for bio-evaluation of novel active compounds for human therapeutic purposes, with the involvement of Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology (CMLRE), an Attached Office of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), Oceanographic Research Vessel (FORV) – Sagar Sampada. Further, the Ministry has entrusted the responsibility of conducting Clinical trials of all the active compounds discovered under 'Drugs from the Sea' programme to Topiwala National Medical College, Mumbai, so as to expedite the product development.

The director, Central Drugs Research Institute (CDRI), Lucknow, the coordinator of this programme has given license to a private firm for collaborative development of drugs for anti-diabetic-cum-anti-hyper-lipidaemic properties. It is expected that these drugs are available in the market at the earliest for the benefit of the people, sources said.
New molecules as potential anti-diabetic from mangrove plant, new molecules having dual properties of anti-hyperglycaemic and anti-hyper-lipidemic are in advanced stages of drug development, department sources said. The programme was launched as part of the long-term research scheme by the Government, against the backdrop of private companies finding difficult to afford the long-term investments in new drug discoveries.