A Marine Biodiscovery Laboratory in Ireland

About the project

The main aim of Marine Biodiscovery is to discover biologically active molecules and materials, from marine bioresources, with a wide array of interesting properties that could lead to new products for companies working in food ingredients, cosmetics, as well as animal and human health. For instance, nature and especially plants have been recognised for thousands of years as providers of a natural source of medicine. Over the past 60 years, the marine environment has emerged as a new and untapped Eldorado for new biomolecules with unique properties. Due to the constant interactions between macro and microorganisms in our oceans, these organisms have developed metabolic pathways leading to biomolecules of unique architectures. These molecules play an important ecological role in the chemical defence, attack or communication between organisms. Such organisms typically include toxic jellyfish and cone snails, but also sessile animals such as sponges and cnidarians, and their associated microbiota.

The first stage of marine biodiscovery is marine bioprospection and there still remains large areas of unexplored marine habitats, including much of the Irish coast-line. In 2017, the project entitled “A National Marine Biodiscovery Laboratory in Ireland” (NMBLI) was funded by the Marine Institute-Ireland to develop Irish capacities in this field and become a research leading centre at an international level. This project intends to bring new opportunities to national but also international researchers from both HEA and industry seeking to explore, understand and sustainably utilize Irish marine bioresources. This laboratory has been built with the support of Prof Dagmar STENGEL (NUIG), Prof Grace MCCORMACK (NUIG), Prof Alan DOBSON (UCC), Prof Dick FITZGERALD (UL) and Prof Olivier THOMAS (Lead NUIG). 

The NMBLI is located in the Marine Institute (Oranmore) and is today fully equipped for the different steps of a Marine Biodiscovery process ranging from field trip collections, taxonomy of all types of marine organisms, chemical analyses and biological assays. The laboratory houses a marine biobank composed of dried biomass, voucher specimens, chemical fractions and biomolecules obtained from Irish marine organisms. This biorepository is organised around a state of the art web-database for storage of data (http://www.imbd.ie/). Samples deposited in the NMBL respect a workflow that involves taxonomy, chemical screening (dereplication), biological screening and natural products chemistry (isolation and structure elucidation of the bioactive compounds). Best practices are respected for all types of subsamples to ensure a continuous traceability.

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