Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

MARBLES - Marine Biodiversity as Sustainable Resource of Disease-Suppressive Microbes and Bioprotectants for Aquaculture and Crop Diseases

To explore the potential of marine microorganisms as producers of novel antimicrobial agents and as bioprotectants in aqua- and agriculture, using an integrative, ecology-based strategy for bioprospecting.

2021 - 2026
Gilles van Wezel
EU Horizon 2020 EU Horizon 2020

DTU (Denmark), University collage Cork (Ireland), University of Aberdeen (United Kingdom), Wagenignen University (Netherlands), ETH Zurich (Switzerland), Naturalis Biodiversity Centre (Netherlands), Erinn Innovation (Ireland), SINTEF (Norway), NAICONS Srl (Italy), FundaciĆ³n MEDINA (Spain), Fraunhofer IME (Germany), EU-OPENSCREEN (Germany), ABS-int (Belgium)


Marine microorganisms are a largely untapped resource for bioactive molecules. MARBLES will use a novel and systematic approach to access and exploit marine microbial biodiversity for sustainable bioprospecting to discover microbial consortia and bioactive molecules for application in aqua- and agriculture and in the clinic.

MARBLES' ecology-based strategy will focus on unique host-microbe interactions in marine environments, including marine sponges, microalgae and fish, which rely on their microbiomes and microbial natural products for disease resistance. Host- and microbe-derived chemicals that elicit production of bioactive compounds, will be analysed as elicitors to revitalise drug screening. Microbial collections will be harnessed for the discovery of novel natural products and synthetic microbial communities that can be used to fight infectious diseases in the agrochemical and aquaculture industries and in healthcare.

Besides highly innovative, the approaches will be cost-effective and will offer advantages from both environmental and health perspectives in comparison to existing alternatives. The sustainable production of bioprotectants will increase the effectiveness of fish production - reducing the pressure on harvesting wild fish - and aid the transition of the crop agriculture sector towards bio-based and circular solutions.

MARBLES brings together 14 partners from 10 countries with strong expertise in marine and terrestrial microbiomes, molecular genetics, bioinformatics, natural product chemistry and experience of scale-up and production of new chemical entities.

MARBLES will also work closely together with a panel of SMEs and large companies from the EU aquaculture, crop protection biotechnology and health sectors.

Concept and overall outline of MARBLES project
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