Project

Exploring the biosynthetic potential of marine sponge microbiomes for the discovery of new medicinal compounds

Marine sponges harbour a vast diversity of microbes, which can help defend the sponge host by producing bioactive compounds, also called natural products. Examining the genomes of these sponge symbionts can illuminate the types of natural products that can be produced.

Background

Bacteria can produce an astonishing variety and complexity of molecules which we can harness for their medicinal uses. The instructions for making these natural products are written in bacterial genomes. Decoding the genetic basis for the biosynthesis of natural products can help us discover new bioactive molecules.

Marine sponges are prolific sources of natural products, which are often produced by their bacterial symbionts. Metagenomic sequencing can finally reveal the genomes of these uncultivable bacteria symbionts.

My research interests lie at the intersection of microbiology, synthetic biology, chemistry and bioinformatics. Thus, my research involves an interdisciplinary approach to unlocking nature’s chemical potential to produce medically relevant molecules.

BSc/MSc theses

This project will involve bioinformatic analysis of sponge metagenomes, identification of novel biosynthetic gene clusters, and heterologous expression of biosynthetic gene clusters to discover new bioactive molecules.