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Vol. LXVI, No. 6
March 14, 2014

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NIEHS Helps Launch Marine Biotechnology Facility

Dr. Daniel Baden stands beside samples in the red tide study culture room.

Dr. Daniel Baden stands beside samples in the red tide study culture room.

Photo: UNCW/Jamie Moncrief

NIEHS grantee Dr. Daniel Baden has a new home for his research into the potential health benefits of a toxic marine microorganism. The 69,000 square-foot Marine Biotechnology in North Carolina (MARBIONC) center is an innovative public-private partnership to advance health research and translation.

Baden, an expert in the field of marine biology and an NIEHS grantee since 1991, is director of the Center for Marine Science (CMS), the University of North Carolina Wilmington partner in MARBIONC. He also administers the nonprofit MARBIONC development group.

Scientists in the UNCW MARBIONC program have been working toward the goal of turning materials in the marine environment into new products, drugs and technologies, as well as creating potential spin-off companies and jobs. As its UNCW web site proclaims, “MARBIONC is in the business of transforming the mysteries of the deep into the miracles of the marketplace.”

Research under way at CMS is representative of the way MARBIONC plans to translate basic research. Baden’s work with extremely toxic microorganism blooms that flourish in warm Atlantic waters led to the surprise discovery of a natural antitoxin, brevenal, produced by the organism. It turns out that brevenal has potential for treating patients with cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other lung diseases.

According to NIEHS Oceans and Human Health Program director Dr. Frederick Tyson, the opening of MARBIONC marks a major success coming from the harmful algal bloom research that NIEHS has supported for several decades.

“Characterization of the mechanisms of toxicity associated with brevetoxins, and the ultimate identification of brevenal and its therapeutic potential, was the key research driver that led to establishment of the MARBIONC development group and the state-of-the-art marine research facility,” he said.—Eddy Ball

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