In 1993, scientists from the Queensland Museum started collecting, documenting and identifying sponges as part as a collaborative project with Eskitis Institute at Griffith University. More than 100 new chemicals discovered from sponges have demonstrated bioactivity against certain human ailments. They are being investigated as potential pharmaceutical products with therapeutic benefits for humankind. One group of chemicals is more potent against breast, lung and blood cancers than current drugs, and another is toxic to a malarial parasite.
In general, marine sponges and ascidians have the greatest proportion of bioactive chemicals of all known animals. Most new chemical structures and new classes of chemical compounds discovered over the past few decades have come from sponges. Thus, in addition to a significant ecological role as filter feeders that cleanse sea waters, sponges have a prominent economic potential as well. Some of these chemicals and the method of their discovery are outlined below.