UM Rosenstiel School Alum Pomponi Returns to Talk About ‘Drugs from the Sea’

7th Annual Alumni Lecture To Focus on Pharmacological and Chemical Uses for Sponges


Photo credit: Evan D’Alessandro

VIRGINIA KEY, Fla. — February 24, 2010 — The University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science announces that Dr. Shirley Pomponi, who received her Ph.D. from the School in 1978, will be the speaker at its 7th Annual Alumni Lecture.  Pomponi, who serves as executive director of Ocean Science, Technology and Development at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at FAU will share her research on sponges and their uses beyond the marine ecosystem.  The lecture will take place on Tuesday, March 2 at 5:30 in the Rosenstiel School Auditorium located at 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway (next to the Miami Seaquarium).

Pomponi’s research focuses on marine biotechnology, in general, and sponge cell culture, in particular.  Sponges have been around for more than 600 million years, and one reason that they’ve been so successful is because they have evolved a sophisticated chemical cache that enables them to compete for space, defend against predators, communicate with other sponges, reproduce, and even prevent infections. These same chemicals are being studied for their potential development as drugs to treat human disorders and diseases.

But what happens if we discover a sponge-derived chemical that’s useful as a drug? When it is not ecologically feasible to harvest sponges to obtain enough of the chemical for drug development or marketing, the most common option is synthesis of the chemical in the lab. Pomponi and her team are exploring ways to grow sponge cells and stimulate them in order to produce these beneficial chemicals for pharmacological uses.

For more information on this lecture, please call 305-421-4207 or visit

About the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School The University of Miami is the largest private research institution in the southeastern United States. The University’s mission is to provide quality education, attract and retain outstanding students, support the faculty and their research, and build an endowment for University initiatives. Founded in the 1940’s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world’s premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, please visit

dr. shirley pomponi •  sponges •  biotechnology •  marine drugs •  lecture •