Natural products have been the predominant source of new pharmaceuticals in the last fifty years. Between 1981 and 2002, 60% of the anticancer drugs and 75% of the anti-infectious disease drugs could be traced to or were inspired by natural products. Humankind has explored and exploited the terrestrial environment for more than 3000 years, but only relatively recently turned its attention to the oceans as a possible source for natural medicines.
From the early investigations in the 1970s until now marine organisms have yielded more than 25,000 natural products. Already a number of them are available in the pharmaceutical market, such as ziconotide (strong analgesic for severe pain relief by the brand name Prialt®) and ecteinascidin 743 (potent antitumor for the treatment of soft tissue sarcoma by the brand name Yondelis®), while almost 15 compounds are in advanced clinical trials for the treatment of numerous diseases. Many marine natural products are bioactive, often displaying unique modes of action.
Vasileios Roussis, recipient of the 2015 PSE – Bruker Award “in recognition of his outstanding contributions to chemistry, structure and function of marine natural products” obtained his PhD from the University of Iowa, USA and did postdoctoral work at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA and NCSR Demokritos. He joined the School of Pharmacy, University of Athens, in 1995 and he is currently the Director of the Laboratory of Pharmacognosy and Chemistry of Natural Products.
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