The pharmaceutical value of marine biodiversity for anti-cancer drug discovery
Marine biodiversity is a resource of enormous importance to human societies that provides critical ecosystem services. Economic valuation of some services has been utilized to promote conservation initiatives by revealing a tangible and causative link between biodiversity declines and economic losses. Other ecosystem services have eluded valuation, including the value of the sea as a repository of novel pharmaceuticals. Here, we provide the first global estimate of the number, source and market value of undiscovered oncology drugs based on empirical data, industry statistics and conservative modelling assumptions. We report US$563Â billion-5.69Â trillion attributable to anti-cancer drugs of marine origin pending discovery, revealing a new and substantial at-risk ecosystem service value. Our model predicted 253,120-594,232 novel chemicals in marine organisms; 90.4-92.6% of these compounds remain undiscovered. A total of 55 to 214 new anti-cancer drugs were predicted to reach the market sourced primarily from animal phyla (Chordata, Mollusca, Porifera, and Byrozoa) and microbial phyla (Proteobacteria and Cyanobacteria). While no single aspect of extractive marine resource value should be relied upon to account for the opportunity costs of conservation initiatives, the application of valuation models to ecosystem services further reveals the true, irreversible economic cost of habitat degradation and biodiversity declines.
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