Tapping the Source of Marine Biotechnological Potential: PharmaSea, MaCuMBA, Micro B3

18.06.2015 -

The three projects PharmaSea, MaCuMBA and Micro B3 have collaborated to produce a new marine microbes research update that explores the cross-over between the projects’ respective objectives as they seek to exploit the virtually untapped resource of marine microorganisms, which account for 98% of ocean biomass. The update features an insightful and candid knowledge exchange between the coordinators of the projects, Marcel Jaspars (PharmaSea), Lucas Stal (MaCuMBA) and Frank Oliver Glöckner (Micro B3).


The ocean covers approximately 70% of the Earth’s surface and up to 80% of life on Earth is found in the ocean. Marine microorganisms are tiny, single-celled organisms that live in the ocean and account for more than 98% of ocean biomass. They offer an almost unlimited resource of enzymes and bioactive compounds and could potentially provide clues that will help mitigate climate change, control disease and generate alternative energy sources. The EU-funded projects PharmaSea, MaCuMBA and Micro B3 complement each other in this interesting field of research. They recently provided a marine microbes research update and gave insights in managing to exploit this virtually untapped resource of biotechnological potential.

PharmaSea (Exploring the Hidden Potential: Novel Bioactive Compounds) develops and commercialises bioactive compounds from marine organisms, and evaluates their potential as novel drug leads. Micro B3 (Marine Microbial Biodiversity, Bioinformatics and Biotechnology) is working to improve Europe’s capacity for bioinformatics and marine microbial data integration. MaCuMBA (Marine Microorganisms: Cultivation, Methods for Improving their Biotechnological Application) isolates and cultivates a wide range of microbial strains in the laboratory, which are then screened for bioactive compounds. 

In the Marine Microbes Research Update, Micro B3’s Frank Oliver Glöckner outlined the importance of collaboration and the connection the three projects have: “There needs to be some overlap, it is good to have these relationships. Micro B3 is focused on marine biodiversity and metageneomics, by collecting DNA from the environment, MaCuMBA is doing the cultivation and PharmaSea is ready for the application. We can learn a lot from each other.”

Lucas Stal of MaCuMBA welcomed the recent advances that have been made in marine microbiology but voiced concerns that our understanding of the area has not accelerated quickly enough: “There have been so many developments that have revealed a huge amount of information that is still being explored. We have seen new nitrogen fixers that basically put the whole nitrogen cycle upside down again. On the other hand, I bought [Claude Ephraim] ZoBell’s original book on Marine Microbiology and reading that book you see our understanding of the system has not evolved since ZoBell wrote this book in 1946.”

Marcel Jaspars from PharmaSea discusses the integral role of industry partners in the projects: “I think that having industry involved at all stages of the pipeline really helps. There are companies who were not necessarily working in the marine environment beforehand who are now convinced that there is something to be done and something of value to be gained by working in the marine and on these bigger projects.”

The Marine Microbes Research Update also features specific updates for each project, upcoming events such as the ECMNP 2015 as well as an overview of the Marine Micr’omics for Biotech Applications workshop, which took place in March.

Download the Marine Mircobes Research Update here.