Marine and microbial biotechnology

Project coordinator: Ana Rotter, PhD

Code: P4-0432

Duration: 1. 1. 2022 – 31. 12. 2027

The Research Programme "Marine and microbial biotechnology" focuses on marine and extreme environments related to low water activity, which are largely unexplored, unexploited and undervalorized. Our vision is to become the regional leaders in marine and extreme biotechnology. To achieve this, we will connect research groups and stakeholders to form national and international collaboration networks tackling acute societal challenges, providing concrete new and innovative solutions, products, and processes. The unique basis for our achievements will be our "4B approach" (Biodiversity-Biofilms -Bioinformatics -Bioactivity): 1. Biodiversity: We will continue with our pioneering work on describing the microbial diversity of marine and associated extreme environments, both natural and anthropogenic. We will focus on fungi and Actinobacteria - two groups with the largest biotechnological potential. We have worked with extremophilic fungi for over two decades and will expand this work in the programme, while actinobacteria are significantly understudied on the national level. We will further develop isolation and culture conditions and store the discovered microbial species in the world's largest collection of extremophilic fungi Ex, which has been established and is managed by a member of the Programme team. 2. Biofilms: Microorganisms in biofilms become recalcitrant to treatment with disinfectants or antibiotics, thus causing problems in healthcare and industry. The Programme will be the first on the national level to study marine biofilm composition, formation and eradication. Biofilms will be valorized in these contexts: (i) eradication of unwanted biofouling and pathogen-containing biofilms by designing new antibiofilm strategies, (ii) use biofilms as a source of novel microorganisms, novel understandings of inter-organismal interactions and novel bioactive compounds with wide biotechnological potential. 3. Bioinformatics: Exploitation of the biotechnological potentials of studied microorganisms will be facilitated by an integrated approach of bioinformatics, biostatistics and chemical screening to provide protocols and pipelines for omics data analysis, data integration, statistical modelling, network analysis, effective visualizations and inclusion of physico-chemical traits into models for better interpretation of results and model-driven biodiscovery and sustainable biotechnological exploitation of natural resources. 4. Bioactivity: Using biomass and biomolecules from macro- and microorganisms we will identify new bioproducts helpful in tackling major societal challenges: improved health and well-being (including the urgent need for new antimicrobials), agrifood and farm to fork contribution, waste valorization to enable sustainable development and circular economy. We will particularly focus on enzymatic systems for biodegradation of recalcitrant anthropogenic pollutants, such as plastic polymers.