Harmful Algal Blooms May Lead to Drug Discoveries | Webinar April 14

An unprecedented harmful algal bloom that spanned from Long Island to Maine in 2016 prompted a recall of over 5 tons of potentially infected shellfish in Maine and the first-ever bay-wide closure for shellfishing in Rhode Island.

Researchers across the region have since been focused on better understanding the species that drive harmful blooms and the types of toxins they produce, such as domoic acid, which is a that can infect shellfish and be harmful to consumers.

Rhode Island Sea Grant will host a virtual Coastal State Discussion led by Dr. Matthew Bertin, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Rhode Island, who will discuss ongoing work investigating why these organisms produce harmful toxins and how these compounds can be leveraged into potential drug leads for either treatment of the disease or new drugs.

“The 2016 event and the continued detection of domoic acid in the bay suggest that either species composition has shifted to more toxic strains of these species, or environmental conditions have made resident species more toxic,” says Bertin. “An increase in bloom events and domoic acid production represents a significant risk to the state’s shellfish industry and local populations as domoic acid is responsible for amnesic shellfish poisoning.”

In addition to studying the human and environmental impact of toxins such as domoic acid, Bertin and his colleagues have also been studying two cyanobacterial communities, Microcystis and Trichodesmium, in a search for new therapeutic lead molecules that could treat neuroinflammation, which is a driver in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

“In four years, we have discovered over 30 new-to-science molecules, many with promising biological activities,” he says.



When: Tuesday, April 14
Time: 4-6:00 p.m. EST

The Coastal State Discussion Series is a forum dedicated to highlighting current scientific research, focused on marine issues impacting coastal communities and environments.

All events are free and all are encouraged to join!

This series is sponsored by Rhode Island Sea Grant with the support of the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal InstituteCollege of Environment and Life Sciences, and the Graduate School of Oceanography.