Hollings Lab and Algaeventure Systems: Looking for Benefits in Harmful Algal Blooms
The NOAA Ocean Service Hollings Marine Laboratory Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), with Algaeventure Systems (dba Biosortia Pharmaceuticals), which was originally signed in 2012 and recently amended in 2014, has resulted in a wide array of successful outcomes for NOAA, and for its CRADA partners. Under the CRADA, NOAA is working with academia, industry and government entities that wish to screen toxic substances present in algal blooms for use pharmaceuticals and other commercial applications, while also producing mission-based data products for water quality managers and homeland security applications.
“The technology that Algaeventure Systems (AVS) brings to bloom analysis is incredible,” says Dr. Peter Moeller, the PI on the CRADA at NOAA’s Hollings facility. “It has and will continue change the way we assess blooms and their secondary metabolites (i.e. toxins and other bioactive molecules). The really cool part of this program is that many of the organisms we assess are non-culturable in the lab, yet produce highly toxic compounds. AVS/Biosortia is tapping into a huge, completely novel source of natural products.”
According to Moeller, NOAA has “submitted over 4,600 discrete biologically active extracts or purified fractions to our partners for testing and commercial development. We already have one patent (euglenophycin) based on this work, which is a compound being tested to capitalize on its angiogenic properties (e.g. to treat leukemia).”
In support of NOAA’s mission, the research generates analytical detection method(s) for each toxin/metabolite of interest. The method/data can then readily be incorporated into any water quality platform to aid managers and decision makers. The research has also led to rapid toxin ID methods which can be used in combating bioterrorism. These methods include mass spectrometry, liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (HPLC/MS) and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR).
“We currently have both national and international requests for toxin standards, an area we are just beginning to look into,” says Moeller. “The CRADA allows us to freely access tons of microbial biomass within hours/days – biomass on a scale unattainable prior to Algaeventure Systems developing their harvesting technology. This has obviated the need for historical time consuming and expensive mass culture. It also allows us to assess the microbial consortia in a given bloom rather than a single selected organism. This is very important as all blooms are a mixture of microbes (algae, fungi, bacteria) that play off each other, generating secondary metabolites that could potentially be used as chemical warfare agents. These metabolites are frequently toxic to mammals, so they are of great concern to water quality managers.”