The lush tropical rainforests and colorful coral reefs of our planet have long been a source of promise in the fight against cancer and other diseases. Even today, these regions, though shrinking rapidly, remain a mystery. They house an amazing biodiversity of microbial, plant and animal life which produces a dizzying array of protective chemicals, such as the toxins secreted by tree frogs, cone snails, and the plant Ricinus communis, source of the deadly ricin. And somewhere under that forest canopy or coral bed, one or more species in that mass may produce the next great cancer drug. But what is the best way to find it?
November 17, 2004