The Institute of Applied Science (IAS) of the University of the South Pacific in its quest to be the regional leader in applying quality sciences engaged the services of a world renowned marine sponge taxonomist, Professor John Hooper, to provide training and guidance on the correct identification of marine sponges collected for drug discovery purposes. Professor Hooper is the Head of a Natural Environments Program, Queensland Museum and Science Center.
The training which was held at IAS from the 15 – 17 July was attended by both IAS and the School of Biological & Chemical Science scientists. During the training, sponges collected by Dr. Katy Soapi and Mr. Klaus Feussner from the Western Province of the Solomon Islands waters in 2012 were identified to genus and many to species level. There were challenges in the identification of these sponges, given the complexity of their morphological characteristics. Professor Hooper however stressed the importance of DNA fingerprinting to assist in the identification process, an area that IAS is continuing to explore. The outcome of this workshop will also aid in the setting up of a bioinventory for the Solomon Islands.
From 1981 – 2010 , 49% of all new approved drugs for cancer treatment directly derived from marine natural products , with sponges being the source of 20% of these.