Marine biotechnology is under the spotlight, as researchers and industrialists become aware that bioprospecting through the oceans’ vast biodiversity can replace the painstaking process of designing synthetic compounds. Millions of years of Natural Selection provided an almost inexhaustible source of marine products that can interfere with specific bioprocesses while being cost-effective, safer and more environmentally friendly. Still, the number of commercial applications of marine compounds, especially from eumetazoans, can seem disappointing. In most part, this results from the challenges of dealing with an immense biodiversity and with poorly known organisms with uncanny physiology. Consequently, shifting the current perspective from descriptive science to actually proposing applications can be a major incentive to industry. With this in mind, the present review focuses on one of the least studied but most representative group of marine animals: the Polychaeta annelids. Occupying nearly every marine habitat, from the deep sea to the intertidal, they can offer a wide array of natural products that are just beginning to be understood, showing properties compatible with anaesthetics, fluorescent probes, and even antibiotics and pesticides, for instance. Altogether, they are a showcase for the ocean's real biotechnological deterrent, albeit our still wispy knowledge on this vast and ancient environment.
- Drug discovery
- Natural products