OHSU

Margo Haygood, Ph.D.

07/20/2009 - The National Institutes of Health has awarded $4 million to a group of Philippine and American scientists to aid in the discovery of new molecules and biofuels technology from marine mollusks for development in the Philippines.

Margo Haygood, PhD The National Institutes of Health has awarded $4 million to a group of Philippine and American scientists to aid in the discovery of new molecules and biofuels technology from marine mollusks for development in the Philippines.

The lead investigator is Margo G. Haygood, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Science and Engineering, OHSU School of Medicine.

“This is a truly unique effort,” said Edward Thompson, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Science and Engineering. “Looking at microbes in the ocean has enormous potential. It could contribute to the development of alternative fuels while at the same time opening a path for biomedical research in largely uncharted territory.”

The project will concentrate its research in the Philippine archipelago whose waters are inhabited by an estimated 10,000 marine mollusk species, about a fifth of all the known species, and are regarded by marine biologists as the world’s epicenter of marine biodiversity.

Called the Philippine Mollusk Symbiont International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups, or PMS-ICBG, the project aims to provide new information to catalog and preserve these diverse mollusk species while providing scientific opportunities for the Philippines. The project is expected to yield leads to potential central nervous system, cancer and antimicrobial drugs as well as enzymes for cellulosic biofuels production.

The National Science Foundation and the US Department of Energy are also sponsors of the grant. The five-year grant is administered by the Fogarty International Center, with additional support from the National Institute on Mental Health, both of the NIH.

Dr. Haygood, a scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography for 18 years before joining OHSU, has worked on the microbiology of symbioses – the interaction between different biological species – for three decades and played a major role proving that bryostatin, an anti-cancer agent, is made by bacterial symbionts living in a marine animal. She will manage the collaborative research effort.