US-Cuba collaboration on marine natural products research
- By : Thérèse Yarde
- Category : Biodiversity, Oceans
- Tags: cuba
From the University of Michigan, a story of research collaboration between scientists from the USA and Cuba. American researcher David Sherman, supported by graduate student Amy Fraley, specializes in research into natural products, and has been building relationship with scientists in Cuba:
Sherman’s research program studies the complex biological compounds made inside microorganisms. Known as “natural products,” these bioactive substances are often associated with defense mechanisms that have evolved over millions of years.
The principal idea behind the research is to harness the power of these chemical reactions, letting nature perform transformations that would be overly laborious if not impossible to do at the bench. Many of the best-known antibiotics are natural products…
Sherman was contacted about a trip organized by the Cuban Marine Research and Conservation Program, or CubaMar. As a project of the Ocean Foundation, CubaMar encourages scientific research collaborations between Cuba, the United States and other neighboring countries, with the goal of improving marine conservation practices and policy in a country where political isolation has long impeded scientific progress.
During their 10-day trip in August, Sherman and Fraley encountered a broad range of fungi and cyanobacteria, much like those the lab typically works with, while exploring caves in Guanahacabibes National Park and Viñales and diving in nine ecologically diverse sites within the Maria la Gorda reef system.
Most importantly, they met with several scientists with whom they hope to build collaborations.
“This was a great opportunity, even though it was clear we weren’t going to have time to get permits in place to collect any samples while we were there,” Sherman said. “Especially in places like Cuba, you really have to make connections with people ahead of time.”
The hope is that the alliances formed during this trip will enable the scientists to begin developing projects that will benefit research in both countries.
Read more at the University of Michigan website.
[Image via University of Michigan]