Biological resources from the sea are of immense importance to humans – in medicine, food and industrial processes.
Marine natural products
More than half of the medicines marketed are based on natural substances, i.e. substances derived from plants, animals or microorganisms. Nevertheless, the wealth of active ingredients found in nature has only been rudimentarily explored pharmacologically to date. This is particularly true for marine organisms. Despite their immense potential, only a few natural marine substances have been approved as medicines. CRM has therefore set itself the task of recovering and researching the natural treasures of the sea. In particular, anti-infectives and antitumor agents from algae represent a key focus of natural product research at CRM.
Why are natural substances from the sea so promising for bioindustry and medicine?
Life originated from the sea. Accordingly, marine organisms have had a long time to adapt to a wide variety of environmental conditions and stressors. Marine plants such as algae, for example, are permanently surrounded by water and thus exposed to attack by microorganisms. Bacteria and fungi can therefore overgrow the surfaces of the plants and damage them. For this reason, there is enormous pressure on marine plants to mount a defense against attacking microbes. Since plants do not have a specialized immune system, defense reactions are carried out through the formation of chemical substances.
Compared to animal organisms, plants have a much broader repertoire of metabolic pathways leading to unique biochemical compounds. Therefore, in our opinion, plant marine organisms (algae) are of particular value with regard to the production of active substances. The reservoir of chemical structures developed in the struggle for survival of marine plants could lead to new antibacterial or antiviral classes of compounds. The neurotoxic effects of substances formed in some algal blooms provide dramatic evidence of how effectively substances formed in marine plants can act on human cells.
Peptides and enzymes
In addition to the “small” marine natural substances (“small molecules”), marine organisms harbor an enormous repertoire of peptides, proteins and enzymes, which can perform a wide variety of tasks in bioindustry, medicine, cosmetics or food industry. CRM is researching marine enzymes in various research and development projects and is involved in building up an enzyme database from algae and other marine organisms using state-of-the-art molecular biology methods. One example of the research and development work in this area is the “REA” project.
Collagens from marine invertebrates are interesting biomaterials, e.g. for wound healing, orthopedics, and tissue engineering. With its experienced natural product chemists, marine biologists, and process engineers, CRM is working as a partner with various universities and institutes in different projects – currently in the Horizon 2020 project “GoJelly” to harness the potential of marine collagens. We hold two patents in this field.
We create value from marine resources
Our “bio-exploitation” initiative, in which we specifically search for usable proteins and other natural substances, leads specifically to new biotechnological products that are brought to market together with our partners. We do this with a sound mixture of “traditional” biology and state-of-the-art methods of molecular biology and bioinformatics. CRM is looking forward to support your project.
We also offer you a look into our unique “Peptides for Industry” database (PEFI) and actively support you in your research and development projects. Please contact us!
Dr. Levent Piker