Seaweed-derived anti-coronavirus agents studied at UPR
By John McPhaul
The School of Pharmacy of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Medical Sciences Campus announced Monday that Dr. Eduardo Caro, an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, is conducting research to study natural seaweed products as antiviral agents against the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The study is part of the 10 UPR research projects that were selected to receive the $1.7 million grant awarded by the Puerto Rico government to contribute to the mitigation and eradication of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 pandemic that we are going through and the lack of an immediate vaccine, combined with the recurrent outbreaks of coronavirus (CoV) since 2003, demonstrates the urgent need for robust and broad-spectrum antivirals against this group of pathogens,” Caro said. “Today, more than 50 percent of the drugs approved by the FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] exist or are derived from naturally produced chemicals. Blue-green algae produce natural products that inhibit specific mechanisms of infectious diseases and recent reports have described the susceptibility of SARS-CoV-2 to being inhibited by chemical compounds derived from seaweed.”
The researcher noted that “our project seeks to redirect our efforts to discover natural products derived from marine algae and other organisms from the sea of Puerto Rico, to discover and develop antiviral agents for the treatment of COVID-19.”
Caro said he is “extremely excited about the opportunity to contribute to scientific knowledge, locally and globally, about COVID-19 along with the UPR.”
“Our project highlights the importance of marine biodiversity as an infinitely valuable resource for the development of biotechnologies, especially at a time when the maritime-terrestrial zone of Puerto Rico is in danger of being destroyed by irresponsible development, as is the situation in Playuela in Aguadilla,” he said. “The selection of this proposal sends a clear message to all Puerto Ricans: bio-resources belong to us and we have to protect them, since they represent concrete solutions for human health.”
Dr. Wanda Maldonado, dean of the School of Pharmacy, stated that “these initiatives are fundamental for the search for new therapeutic alternatives against multiple medical conditions, and at the same time raise awareness in the community to protect the maritime-terrestrial zone of Puerto Rico.”