The deep ocean can be a source of new medicines for human diseases, but its biodiversity is unprotected and under threat. Life in the deep ocean is different. Compared to terrestrial organisms, deep sea organisms must cope with high pressure, no light, low oxygen, low temperatures and little food, yet somehow an abundance of species continue to thrive. They have evolved to invade every possible deep sea habitat from cold seeps to coral mounds and thermal vents, chemically battling each other for limited resources.
The aim is to protect ocean biodiversity, with plans to extend marine protected areas to cover 30% of the ocean by 2030. Considerations on who can gain access to the deep sea, the origins of any commercialised products when obtained in ABNJ (Marine Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction), and how economic benefits should be shared are still hotly debated.
Marcel Jaspars is a professor at the Marine Biodiscovery Centre, Department of Chemistry in the University of Aberdeen (UNIABDN), UK. He is the founder of and a consultant to GyreOx Ltd that uses marine derived enzymes to develop potential pharmaceuticals.