The research will identify, isolate and collect marine biomolecules that could bring medical benefits in the future. Their research will be showcased at a free, public event at the Sea Life Centre, Brighton on Thursday 27 February.
Biocare Marine is part-funded by the Interreg IVA 2 Seas Programme which supports economic and social cohesion projects throughout the EU. Bringing medical and economic benefits are the aims but protecting the marine environment will be an important part of the research. The Biocare Marine consortium brings together the University of Brighton, University of Gent (Belgium), Ifremer (France) and Polymaris (France).
Lead scientist Dr Iain Allan, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Brighton's School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, said: "Marine creatures have to compete for space and resources in order to survive. Marine bacteria, like those from other environments, try to out-compete their neighbours using a number of tactics, including the use of what are essentially chemical weapons - some of which we know as antibiotics. Biocare Marine is trying to find new antimicrobial agents that are naturally produced by marine bacteria. This comes at a time when many disease-causing bacteria are developing resistance to the current generation of antibiotics.
"We are also using marine-derived polymers to construct biomaterials that can be used as the structural components of tissue regeneration matrices. We are aiming to improve on current materials and be more economical. This work could have benefits for the fishing industry through added value of waste materials, such as fish scales and bones, the derivatives of which form the basis of some of our biomaterials."
Dr Cressida Bowyer, a researcher on the project, said: "We are looking to nature to provide solutions to scientific problems. For example, marine bacteria have evolved coatings to bind toxic heavy metals which would otherwise penetrate and poison them. We are attempting to exploit this defence mechanism by synthesising filtration matrices that are coated with these bacterial polymers. We could then use them to purify fluids that have been contaminated with these toxic metals."
Guest speaker will be Professor Anthony Metcalfe, Professor of Burns and Wounds at the University of Brighton and Director of Research at the Blond McIndoe Research Foundation, and there will be music from former Marillion front man, and successful solo artist Fish, who has a keen interest in marine science.