Marine Natural Products Chemistry

Research Unit Marine Natural Products Chemistry focuses on marine resources (macro- and micro-organisms) and their secondary metabolites (also known as specialized metabolites). These molecules have been structurally optimized by environmental pressures over millions of years to exert particular functions and modulate chemical interactions between the host, its microbiome and the ecosystem.

Our first major research line (marine biodiscovery/biotechnology) explores the potential of such ‘designer molecules’ for discovery of new, bioactive molecules relevant for human health (e.g., as drug candidates), or for applications as agrochemicals, nutraceuticals or cosmeceuticals.

The second research line (marine chemical ecology) deals with fundamental research questions relating to the ecological roles of marine natural products, e.g., in chemical defense against biofouling, or in the ecosystem services of the organism.

Our study organisms range from marine macrophytes (seaweeds, seagrasses) to marine animals (sponges, ascidians, fish) and their associated microbiota. One major interest is the extremophilic organisms (thriving in deep-sea, polar environments, hydothermal vents) that produce unprecedented chemical scaffolds as a result of their biochemical adaptations to their environments.

The tool kits we employ for both type of research include computational untargeted metabolomics, spatial metabolomics (by imaging mass spectrometry), lipidomics, microbiomics, which we integrate with marine natural product chemistry and screening techniques. Currently we run >75 in vitro bioassays in our labs.