Published: Jun 17, 2010 6:23 PM EDT
Updated: Jun 17, 2010 3:23 PM EDT

GAINESVILLE, Fla - As BP officials scramble to contain the oil spill and save the Gulf Coast from further contamination, University of Florida researchers are working on a save of their own.

Researchers are collecting cyanobacteria or blue-green algae from sensitive coral reefs just off shore in the Florida Keys.  The reefs suffered extensive damage from the cold Winter and now could face further damage from oil that is spreading around the Gulf of Mexico.

UF researchers are working to collect as many samples of the algae as possible because of recent findings that the algae may help cure diseases..

Dr. Hendrik Luesch, UF drug discovery researcher says, "These organisms over grow corals and we and others have shown that they produce interesting compounds that have drug like properties that may be exploited by biomedical purposes such as anti-cancer drugs and others."

Currently only two drugs are available that were developed from marine research with another 14 drugs that are in clinical trials.

Experts consider the ocean an untapped resource for drug discovery.  Damage from the oil contamination could lead to the loss of potential cures for many diseases.

"All the marine biodiversity that is effected ultimately or can be effected by this oil spill and it endangers a number of species here in the Florida Keys and consequently the marine drug discovery efforts that are going on by our groups and other groups in this area of the United States."