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SD Researchers To Scour The Ocean For Treatments For Biological Warfare Weapons

San Diego-based biotech firm Trius Therapeutics will team with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego to scour the ocean depths for treatments for biological warfare weapons, it was announced today.

A grant worth $29.5 million from the Defense Department will fund the 4 1/2-year project.

Trius will test compounds compiled into a library by William Fenical, director of the Scripps Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine.

Fenical has made expeditions to Fiji and the Bahamas in search of microbial sources that can be turned into cures for a variety of diseases.

"We are now facing an epidemic because drug resistance is growing at an alarming rate," Fenical said. "The oceans are a huge resource where biodiversity is greatest on our planet. The biomedical potential comes from plants, animals and microbes that have unique genetic compositions."

Jeffrey Stein, CEO of Trius Therapeutics, said the objective is to find new compounds for treating infections caused by pathogens that can be used as bioweapons. The treatments would have commercial applications, as well, he said.