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IBL coordinates project to search for new medicines in marine biodiversity

Gilles van Wezel of the Institute of Biology Leiden will lead a European consortium to search for new medicines and disease-suppressive microbes while preserving biodiversity. The consortium will explore the largely unknown potential of marine microorganisms.

The project, officially entitled Marine Biodiversity as Sustainable Resource of Disease-Suppressive Microbes and Bioprotectants for Aquaculture and Crop Diseases, has been given the name MARBLES. MARBLES’ goal is to explore how marine microbial biodiversity can be used to protect people, animals and crops from disease. The research team will specifically look for new antibiotics and antifungals as well as microbes that can serve as bioprotectants in agriculture and aquaculture. The European Union has awarded the project a total of 7.5 million euros in the Horizon 2020 programme.

Harnessing biodiversity for health

Coordinator Gilles van Wezel, professor of Molecular Biotechnology and also Scientific Director at the Institute of Biology Leiden (IBL), will work together with among others Jos Raaijmakers (NIOO-KNAW and IBL), Marnix Medema (WUR; van der Klaauw professor at IBL) and Nicole de Voogd of Naturalis Biodiversity Center. The international consortium consists of fourteen partners from ten European countries. Van Wezel: ‘This is an important project because it is about discovering new medicines in such a way that we protect biodiversity. First, we explore microbial communities that protect against microbial infections. Next, we identify the molecules they make to use in the clinic. At the same time, we hope to apply the microbes themselves for crop protection and as probiotics, which will help to reduce antibiotic use. The project is perfectly in line with IBL's leading principle, Harnessing biodiversity for health.’

Long-lasting impact

Maribel Adame Valero, Research Coordinator at the IBL, is excited with this new project: ‘It was great to help shape this fantastic project and to work with all the different stakeholders. The project is designed to have a long-lasting impact in line with the European Green Deal and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. I am looking forward to great collaborations.’

Horizon 2020 is the largest research and innovation programme in the EU. With this financial instrument, the European Commission wants to challenge the business community and the academic world to jointly come up with solutions for social issues at play, such as sustainability, climate change and food safety.

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