Marine microorganisms are an extremely rich source of chemical novelty and bioactivity with many promising new
bioactive compounds being discovered from each year. This project is focused on using a genomics guided approach for
the discovery of novel bioactives from bacteria that have been cultured from marine sponges. A total over 1,400 marine sponge derived bacteria, have
previously been screened for bioactivity to detect antibiotic activity against a range of model and pathogenic bacteria and fungi; with up to 50% of these isolates being found to be
active in these initial screens. However in liquid culture much of this initial bioactivity is lost, with typically <10% of initial ‘hits’ suitable for bioactive product purification. Our hypothesis is that a genomics guided approach will allow us to access the cryptic bioactivity that is present in these bacteria. 20 marine‐sponge derived bacteria will be selected for genomic analysis based on initial bioactivity.
These will include Streptomyces sp., Micromonospora sp., Pseudovibrio sp., and Pseudoalteromonas sp. Thus we will employ genomic analysesto discover the genetic basisfor bioactivity
in carefully selected and phylogenetically diverse marine bacteria; express cryptic and novel metabolic pathways in heterologous hosts; discover and chemically characterise
novel bioactive molecules, and; discover new previously inaccessible antibiotic compounds.
Description of facilities and research environment
The Dobson group is based in the Environmental Research Institute (http://eri.ucc.ie) at UCC which was established as an inter‐disciplinary research institute in 2000 to facilitate
and support environmental, marine and energy based research at UCC. The Institute brings together expertise in the biological, chemical and environmental sciences as well as environmental engineering, energy and environmental law. The Institute currently has a total of 64 Principal Investigators, 70 non‐tenured researchers and 65 postgraduate students involved in research activities in the Environment, Marine and Energy areas (over 40% of researchers are from outside of Ireland). From 2006‐2010 ERI researchers have published 699 peer‐reviewed research papers and a total of 138 PhD and MSc students have graduated under the supervision of ERI PIs. In this same time period recurrent research income from both national and international funding agencies has totalled €37 M. An independent assessment of research quality at University
College Cork in 2009 awarded the Institute a top research rating (Level 5) finding that “the Institute had overall excellent performance with evidence of world‐class contributions” and “a high level of inter‐disciplinary research within and across the groups”. In 2010 the ERI secured €16 M from the Irish Government to extend the Institute and create a new research building dedicated to marine and energy research. This new building will integrate the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre, the Coastal and Marine Resources Centre together with members of the Sustainable Energy Research Group and, when completed, will provide space for 135 additional researchers including 67 new PhD and researcher spaces. The Dobson group is currently involved in three EU funded research projects in the Marine Biotechnology area namely, MicroB3, Macumba and PharmaSea.