The work flow of the MAREX project

Structure of the MAREX project

The research work in MAREX is divided into eight strongly interwoven work packages. WP1 is responsible for sourcing and bioprospecting marine organisms from the pool of vast biodiversity of European, Asian and South American marine ecosystems, the collection and/or subsequent cultivation as well as crude extraction of selected marine organisms. Also, WP1 takes care of organizing and inventorizing the institutional, local, national and commercially available collections as well as culture collections available to the MAREX consortium. All the research will be conducted in full compliance with the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and in close and equal co-operation with the local research community and authorities in the region of collection of marine organisms.

Crude extracts produced in WP1 will be processed further in WP2 by using solvent extraction and chromatographic fractionation techniques guided by the assays available in WP3. The chromatographic isolation of bioactive compounds is followed by determination of their chemical purity, and the structural determination with various advanced state-of-the-art spectroscopic techniques and X-ray crystallography. Extracts, fractions and pure isolated compounds will be studied for their biological and pharmacological activity in WP3.

WP3 focuses on the screening of MAREX consortium samples for therapeutically and industrially significant biological activities, such as anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anticoagulant and antiaggregatory activities, as well as effects on ion channels and receptors, biofilm formation, mitochondrial function, inhibition of bacterial adherence, protein phosphatase inhibition, plant growth regulating activity, and effects of marine compounds on invertebrates. Finally, preliminary safety evaluation of the marine bioactive compounds and their derivatives obtained from WP2, WP4 and WP5 is carried out.

In WP4 sustainable biotechnological production protocols for selected marine bioactive compounds (based on the results of WP3) will be developed by using various fermentation techniques. Furthermore, biosensors will be developed to monitor the production of bioactive compounds in bioreactors, and feeding experiments of dinoflagellates to study bioactive pathways will be carried out.

In WP5 of the MAREX consortium, the work is focused on organic synthesis of the selected promising compounds in amounts needed for further work. Synthesis of new derivatives, analogs, and mimetics of selected bioactive marine compounds and synthetic modification of selected marine compounds will be performed for the evaluation of various industrial applications in WP7. MAREX's medicinal chemistry programme aims at optimizing the most attractive bioactive compounds to the stage of lead compounds.

WP6 takes care of the overall sample logistics and data management of the MAREX consortium, and is responsible for creation and updating of key databases, such as extract, compound, and bioactivity databases. WP6 also organises standard operating procedures for sample transfers, because a great number of different extracts and isolated compounds originating from several marine organisms will be produced, and needs to be transferred efficiently between the Consortium members. Regarding quality aspects of the project, the standardisation of data formats and management will be done in the beginning of the MAREX project.

In WP7 the feasibility of the new marine bioactive compounds, innovative approaches, and the most potential industrial products and process solutions are subjected to cost-benefit analysis to evaluate the overall feasibility, compared with the present industrial exploitation of marine organisms and use of the bioactive marine compounds. Key application areas are pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, cosmetics, agrochemicals, biosensors, and other speciality chemicals. The following operations will be evaluated (i) fractionation of promising crude extracts, (ii) primary separation, isolation, and purification of marine bioactive compounds, and (iii) key modifications needed to make added-value derivatives of marine bioactive compounds. Handling of intellectual property rights and benefit sharing issues are dealt with in this work package. WP7 takes also care of training and dissemination activities of the MAREX project.

The last work-package (WP8) co-ordinates all the scientific and technological work in the MAREX consortium, and focuses on efficient management.