The PharmaSea project focuses on marine biodiscovery research, development and commercialization and brings together a broad interdisciplinary team of academic and industry researchers and specialists to produce new products for development in three accessible market sectors, health (infection, inflammation, CNS diseases), personal care and nutrition. Despite the enormous potential of blue biotechnology, the exploitation of marine natural products, in particular at the commercial scale, has been hindered by a number of constraints. These concern the access of organisms (physical and legal), their genetics, bioactive compound isolation, elucidation of chemical structures and reliable early validation of the biological activity of these compounds. PharmaSea directly aims to overcome some of these bottlenecks leading to improvements in the quality of marine resources available for biotechnological exploitation, to shorten time to market, and develop sustainable modes of supply of raw materials for industry. Within the project a wide variety of marine microorganisms will be analyzed, including collections held by some partners and new collections of strains collected in extreme environmental conditions (deep, hot and cold) in order to isolate new compounds with characteristics appropriate for development by SMEs. The overall objective of PharmaSea is to produce two compounds at large-scale and promote them in pre-clinic evaluations.

What we do

SZN is involved in WP1 and WP2 of this project. SZN objectives are to select and isolate microalgae with potential pharmaceutical activity (e.g. antimitotic, anti-bacterial or for neurodegenerative diseases), and to develop innovative technologies for cell growth in order to increase the production of specific secondary metabolites. Often canonical growth conditions do not allow the activation of specific metabolic pathways. Therefore it is necessary to experiment with new growth conditions in order to obtain a greater concentration of the desired product. Moreover, the aim of the SZN is, also, to scale-up the production of selected strains using 100L photobioreactors  under controlled conditions. Molecular techniques are also being used to identify species and to study the transcriptomes of microalgal strains that show biological activity.


SZN, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, The University Court of the University of Aberdeen, MarBio, eCoast, Biodridge, MEDINA, University college Cork, BIOCOM, CNR, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, The Royal society of chemistry, C-LECTA GMBH, Denmarks Tekniske Universitet, DEEPTEK, Advanced chemistry development UK, Wuhan University, Institute of Microbiology Chinese Academy of Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Instituto de Dinamica Celular y Biotecnologia, Asociacion Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, Union Internationale pour la conservation de la nature et de ses ressources, University of Waikato, SeaLifePharma.

Research Area

Marine Biotechnology

SZN role


Principal Investigator

Adrianna Ianora

Project Manager

Peter de Witte

Project Lifetime

October 2012 - October 2016

Funding Institutions

European Commission, under the 7th Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013 under grant agreement n° 312184)

Personnel involved

Adrianna Ianora, Principal investigator
Giovanna Romano, Experienced Researcher
Francesco Esposito, Technologist
Chiara Lauritano, Post-doc

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