Researchers to trawl ocean for new biotechnology resources

University of Bangor to lead four-year €6m INMARE project

A new international consortium of more than 20 partners from academia and industry from 12 countries, funded by the EU Horizon 2020 Programme, will work on a four-year @6m project that will mine for and use newly discovered microbial enzymes and metabolites, in particular, for the targeted production of fine chemicals, anti-cancer drugs and environmental clean-up technologies.

The INMARE (Industrial Applications of Marine Enzymes: Innovative screening and expression platforms to discover and use the functional protein diversity from the sea) project, led by Professor Peter Golyshin and Dr Olga Golyshina from Bangor University, UK, stands on the shoulders of previous and on-going national research initiatives and projects supported by earlier European Framework Programmes for the exploration of the genomic and biochemical diversity of marine micro-organisms.

INMARE’s industrial focus comes via innovative screening programmes for enzymes, and bioinformatics-based gene discovery, and will include both development and demonstration of innovative technologies.

Addressing some of the major challenges that lie ahead, Peter Golyshin, said: 'An important bottleneck in the industrial application of enzymes is the long time and high costs needed between the initial enzyme discovery and its application in an industrial process. The solution may be to find better natural enzyme variants: after four billion years of evolution, nature has established a vast diversity of enzymes, some of which may fit perfectly well to the industrial demand. Our task will be to identify them using corresponding screening conditions, at very early stages.'

Olga Golyshina added: 'As the majority of microbes from extreme environments cannot be cultured under standard lab conditions, the new culture-independent approaches, e.g. ‘metagenomics’ will play the central role in the project. A special emphasis will be put on the development of innovative screening approaches.'

Marine environments represent the largest diversity of untapped genes, enzymes and natural products which could be of use to industry. Of special interest are the microbes, which survive in extreme conditions such as high pressure, salinity or temperature and hence could provide enzymes which are able to perform in industrial settings under harsh physical and chemical conditions.