Valdosta - When Jessica Thomas came to Valdosta State University, she had no idea she'd soon be working on a project many scientists only dream of. "It's really been fun and it's been a really big treat, something unexpected.," says senior Jessica Thomas.
She and fellow students are studying the marine organism, Bugula Neritina and Bryostatin, the drug it can produce.
And it could be the cure for many types of cancers and Alzheimer's. "It was proposed for a cure for Alzheimer's disease so right now its being put in pre-clinical trials to see if it would work as a cure for the disease," says graduate student Giso Abati.
The problem is, it takes 14 tons of the organism to make just half an ounce and the drug costs upwards of 10 million dollars a gram.
And these students are working to find ways to make it more affordable. "We know it works, we know the drug works but the next step is trying to find a way that you can treat one million people, not just 10 or 100 or the people that can afford to purchase the drug," says Abati.
Confidentiality agreements keep them from saying how, but they have identified two other methods of finding and extracting the drug. "The methods that we use are going to be a lot cheaper than collecting 14 tons of the marine organism," Abati adds.
These students believe it's only a matter of time until Bryostatin can be mass produced and start saving lives.