Discovery and development of new types of compounds of biomedical importance have become top priority in the combat against certain global health issues. Marine sponges are considered as the most prolific reservoir of natural products, yielding pharmaceutically interesting compounds. Sponge-associated microbes are suspected to be the actual producers of these important metabolites. However, the limited success in the in vitro cultivation of sponge-associated microbes remains a major bottleneck in this field. A promising strategy to unravel their biotechnological potential is the application of novel cultivation techniques coupled with the valuable information offered by the ‘omics’ technologies. Nevertheless, actual examples of attempts to link multi-omics with microbial cultivation are scarce. To address this gap, we will combine (meta)genomics, metatranscriptomics and novel high-throughput cultivation strategies (e.g. microcultivation and microprinting on culture chips). Insights into the biosynthetic pathways related to the primary and secondary metabolism of the sponge-associated microbes will facilitate the design of cultivation experiments. Ultimate goal of this study is the generation of a strain collection of novel marine microorganisms with high potential of producing pharmaceutically promising bioactive compounds.
We provide a disciplinary and multidisciplinary research programme aimed at advanced understanding of environmental problems and advanced training of PhD candidates in this field.