CAPTION: Professor Hooper with IAS members.
The Institute of Applied Science (IAS) at the University of the South Pacific in its quest to be the regional leader in applying quality sciences has engaged the services of a world renowned marine sponge taxonomist, Professor John Hooper, to provide training and guidance on the correct identification of marine sponges collected for drug discovery purposes.
Professor Hooper is the Head of the Natural Environments Program, at the Queensland Museum and Science Center, in Australia.
The training which was held at IAS from Monday 15 to Wednesday 17 July, 2013, was attended by scientists from both the IAS and the School of Biological & Chemical Science.
During the training, sponges collected by the IAS – Drug Discovery Unit post-doctoral fellow, Dr Katy Soapi and Assistant Project Manager Mr Klaus Feussner, from the Western Province of the Solomon Islands waters in 2012 were identified to genus and many to species level.
There were challenges in the identification of these sponges, given the complexity of their morphological characteristics.
Professor Hooper however stressed the importance of DNA fingerprinting to assist in the identification process, an area that IAS is continuing to explore.
The outcome of this workshop will also aid in the setting up of a bioinventory for the Solomon Islands.
From 1981 to 2010, 49% of all new approved drugs for cancer treatment have been directly derived from marine natural products, with sponges being the source of 20% of these.
The USP – IAS is a laboratory based institute which interfaces the University’s expertise and facilities to the independent island countries of the South Pacific.
The institute works with other schools and departments at USP on interdisciplinary projects as well as organises technical and scientific training courses. It focuses on five main project areas: environment, food, water quality, marine natural products and community based resource management.