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We are in desperate need for new bioactive compounds. Super bugs are on the rise as evolution finds a way of thwarting our antibiotics. We are also continually on the hunt for compounds that can fight disease, ease suffering or get your teeth super white. The natural world has been experimenting for millions of years and has come up with solutions far more elegant than we could come up with.
Don pops by to make us aware of bioprospecting. The ocean, and in particular the deep ocean, may be the best place to look for new compounds but is this a threat to the ocean? It is often mentioned alongside seabed trawling, climate change and mining as a threat to the deep ocean. Should we call it bioprospecting or biodiscovery and what’s the difference? If most of the world’s ocean belongs to everyone, who owns a discovery? How do we ensure that developed nations, who are better equipped to benefit from a discovery, don’t leave developing nations out? Are companies really patenting naturally occurring compounds? If we find something exciting, what is the process for it becoming the next wonder drug?
While they both agree that looking for new compounds in the deep sea sounds good, Alan and Thom are soon stumped by the complexities of actually making that happen in a fair and sustainable way. Luckily, they can call on Professor Marcel Jaspars, head of the Marine Biodiscovery Centre to help us through the practicalities of biodiscovery but also its political and ethical complexities.
As ever there will be a roundup of current news. The sex-lives of giant squid, are they monogamous? India launches its Deep Ocean Mission with the intention of starting deep-sea mining and we ponder why large surface predators would dive very deep.
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Giant squid could be monogamous:
Bone and wood eating worms of the Antarctic
India’s Deep-Ocean Mission approved
Deep diving large marine predators
Are whales making these depressions in the deep seabed?
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
The Convention on Biological Diversity
The Nagoya Protocol
The Deepest of Ironies (paywall)
Evolving Perspectives On The International Seabed Area’s Genetic Resources: Fifteen Years After The ‘Deepest Of Ironies’ (paywall)
Who owns marine biodiversity? Contesting the world order through the ‘common heritage of humankind’ principle
Corporate control and global governance of marine genetic resources
Polymers: Secrets from the deep sea
Deep sea at the Chelsea Flower Show
Song of the Ocean – Global Virtual Performance 2021
Sharing the Benefits of the Ocean (loads of wider reading here)
Theme – Hadal Zone Express by Märvel
Far Below the Sea Blooms – Chelsea Flower Show, Marcel Jaspars
One of Thom and Alan’s cultures
Someone To Watch Over Me
by Ira and George Gershwin; Linda Keene; Henry Levine and his Strictly from Dixie Jazz Band
Humpback Whale (Megaptera Novaeangliae) – BBC sound archive