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Marine Bioprospecting and Bioactive Compounds



Course format On-site
Datum 2020-08-12 - 2020-11-30
Entry level Bachelor

Course content

Students learn the processes and techniques used to detect and characterise bioactive compounds from marine organisms and their genes in early phases. Research in this field is essential to facilitate further development and document the concept of the bioactive compound(s) and also how to optimise them to make medicines or other commercial products.

It can take a long time to develop bioactive components. It is a complicated process from the actual proof of a find ("hit") and subsequent characterisation, until there is documented agreement about whether it is worth investing in further development all the way up to the creation of a commercial product.

The topics in the course range from identifying biological resources in the sea to applying various traditional and new biotechnological methods. The course examines the application/analysis of these resources and their genes, characteristics of bioactive components (and genes), their chemical structures, bioactivities and mechanisms of action.

The various methods used in bioprospecting are thoroughly reviewed and the opportunities and challenges they present are brought into focus. The bioassay-guided purification method is used during the two-week compulsory laboratory course. The laboratory exercise covers extraction, testing, separation/isolation and introductory characterisation of both bioactive compounds and their mechanisms of action, concentrating particularly on antibacterial activity. The lab course will take place in research laboratories associated with the Bioprospecting Research Group, both at the Department of Norwegian College of Fishery Science and on the screening platform Marbio.

Examples of development of natural marine products and their applications will be presented (anti-cancer, antimicrobial activity towards antibacterial resistant bacteria, immunomodulating agents, antioxidants, enzymes and enzyme-inhibiting activity).

Other topics, not mentioned above, will be covered in lectures. These are: Other methods in bioprospecting, structure biology with genomic/metagenomics, virtual screening and metabolomics; Natural products and case studies; Ethics, legislation and agreements related to bioprospecting and commercial potential; Different phases in drug discovery; Challenges and solutions of supply of more material; Applications and new trends.


BIO-2513 Marine Biodiversity, BIO-2606 General and marine biotechnology

A bachelor's degree in biotechnology, marine biotechnology or equivalent education. Required background in biotechnology: Basic biology, chemistry, cell and molecular biology and organic chemistry (1000 level, 1st-2nd year). In-depth specialisation must also have been undertaken at the 2000 level (2nd-3rd year), as a minimum, in chemistry/biochemistry (min. 10 credits), microbiology (min. 10 credits) and molecular biology/methods in molecular biology (min. 10 credits).

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students will have achieved the following learning outcomes:

Knowledge and understanding. The candidate

  • has advanced knowledge about what is involved in the concept of bioactivity-focused marine bioprospecting (bioassay guided) and the value chain involved
  • is familiar with several methods that are used in bioprospecting (genetic and metagenomic approaches and digital screening, as well as methods based on structural similarities)
  • knows about natural marine substances and their bioactivities
  • knows about marine resources (including genes) such as animal life (evertebrates), bacteria, microalgae, macroalgae, plants and other marine biomass
  • understands the practical and legal challenges related to exploitation of biological resources in research and development, and commercialisation
  • understands research challenges and other demands when using the various methods
  • has advanced knowledge of various chromographic and mass-spectroscopic methods and analyses related to isolating, bioactivity testing and characterisation of marine molecules and their mechanisms of actions
  • has sound knowledge of examples of the exploitation of natural marine products, including non-medical applications

Skills. The candidate

  • has a theoretical and practical understanding of bioactivity-focused marine bioprospecting (bioassay guided) and what this value chain includes
  • can familiarise him/herself with an experimental protocol and carry out an experimental laboratory exercise in bioprospecting
  • can analyse result data
  • can write a laboratory report that summarises the results from the practical laboratory exercise (includes sections on introduction, materials and methods, result and discussion; IMRAD)
  • can work effectively on his/her own or as a member of a team

Expertise. The candidate

  • knows about various analyses used in bioprospecting; various chromographic and mass-spectroscopic methods and analyses related to isolation, bio-activity testing and characterisation of marine molecules and mechanisms of action, and
  • knows how to exploit natural marine products, including non-medical applications.


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