Scientists isolated a drug, bryostatin 1, from a marine pest that had the potential for treating some of the world's dangerous diseases. But, the quantity of the drug produced from the feathery sea creatures was insufficient. However, the researchers had found a simpler and more efficient method to extract the compound increasingly in the lab.

The novel synthetic supply would be enough for testing its effectiveness as a cancer immunotherapy and for treating Alzheimer's disease and HIV. The findings were published in the journal Science.

The scientists had focused on marine life for the development of drugs. The team collected and analyzed a plethora of marine organisms. One of those organisms, Bugula neritina, showed some anti-cancer activity. The researchers had found the active ingredient called bryostatin 1.

Subsequent studies showed that B. neritina produced bryostatin only in depths > about 10 feet and in warmer seas closer to the equator, and only during certain times of the year. There was a method to synthesize bryostatin in the lab, but it took 57 steps and was not very efficient.

Paul Wender, the principal investigator of the study, said they produced chemicals that were better than the natural products and more effective. But they didn't have enough material for clinical trials. Hence, they continued to make bryostatin 1 in large quantity. 

The researchers found a much shorter, 29-step process and a yield of 4.8%, tens of thousands of times more efficient than extracting bryostatin 1 from B. neritina. The method was substantially simpler and more efficient than the earlier synthetic method.

The scientists using new synthetic method produced approximately two grams of bryostatin 1. Once production is scaled up, the manufacturers could produce about 20 grams of bryostatin 1 every year which is enough to cover clinical and research needs.

The method produced a bit more than was ever extracted from B. neritina and enough to treat approximately 20,000 cancer patients or 40,000 Alzheimer's patients. The findings could also be beneficial for HIV/AIDS patients.

A bryostatin 1 analog could awaken suppressed HIV-infected cells; make them more susceptible to attack by HIV drugs or the immune system and could start in a serious clinical conversation to eradicate HIV/AIDS, Wender said.

Researchers had found a new synthetic supply to produce bryostatin 1, which would be enough for treating some of the world's dangerous diseases such as, cancer, Alzheimer's disease and HIV/AIDS.