Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


MARISURF Report Summary

Project ID: 635340
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.2.


Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2017-02-28

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Surfactants (SAs) and emulsifiers are an important class of chemical agents that are widely used in almost every sector of modern industry. Surfactants reduce the surface tension and are used widelyin detergents, dispersants and foaming agents. Emulsifiers can be used as an additive to stabilise oil in processed foods or cosmetic creams. The huge market demand is currently met almost exclusively by synthetic, mainly petroleum-based, chemical products, which are usually non-biodegradable and mostly toxic or GM plant based products (used in foods), which are undesirable by some end-users. Their biologically produced counterparts (i.e. bio-surfactants and bio-emulsifiers) offer more green sustainable alternatives. This has led to a number of manufacturers looking for ways to increase competitiveness through searching for underexploited sources such as the marine environment.
The MARISURF consortium has 13 partners:
5 academic Institutions: Heriot Watt University (HWU) , Ulster University, Democritus University of Thrace (DUTH) , University of Patras (UPAT), Northumbria University (UNN)
4 industrial companies: Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant VZW, EcTechSystens Srl, Nova-Institut fur politische und okologische innovation GmbH, Acondicionamiento Tarrasense Association (LEITAT)
4 end-user companies: APIVITA SA, Marlow Foods Ltd, Macphie of Glenbervie Ltd, Nanoimmunotech SL
Our objectives are:
• to develop innovative approaches in discovering, characterizing and producing novel marine-derived bio-surfactants from a large bacterial collection (greater than 500 strains) housed at Heriot Watt University, originally isolated from various coastal and open ocean waters around the world
• to develop novel, economic, and eco-friendly end-products with commercial applications in order to replace synthetic counterparts
• to demonstrate the functionality of new product development for commercial exploitation.
The MARISURF project has a budget of 4,749,649 euros and started in September 2015 and will finish in August 2020. The consortium has the expertise to deliver the objectives and during the first period has been working to identify promising strains for ongoing development work. The 4 end-users represent different commercial sectors and have played a key role in highlighting the properties they require from the bio surfactants / emulsifiers. The diagram below highlights the work planned for the project.
MARISURF will improve the quality of life by using natural ingredients produced by marine microbes to make consumer products more sustainable and healthier.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

During the first reporting period, the MARISURF team has developed an innovative screening programme to identify surfactants from a large bacterial collection (greater than 500 strains) housed at HWU.

The industrial partners have identified the desirable properties for the bio-surfactants and to date 350 of the bacterial strains have been screened by HWU and 61 (19%) have been identified with promising properties that could potentially be used to replace the current mainly petroleum-based, chemical products. 42 strains have been forwarded to LEITAT and ULSTER (with another 14 ready for shipping) and 10 polymers have been extracted and analysed.
LEITAT and ULSTER have been working to optimise the fermentation process at laboratory scale of the most promising candidates. To date, LEITAT has been concentrating on strains with promising emulsion and gel forming characteristics. Ulster are determining suitable substrate concentration and growth conditions (temperature, pH, aeration rate, agitation rate, feed rate) for enhanced biosurfactant production where strains have been selected based on their ability to reduce surface tension.
ULSTER has also been looking at genetic sequencing of the strains that it has received.
UPAT has established an initial isolation/purification protocol of SAs, which will allow for further understanding of the biophysical and functional characterization of materials with biopolymer characteristics. It has also started preliminary NMR analysis.

UNN and DUTH have started testing the toxicity of some of the polymers and are developing protocols for future work.

The consortium is actively working to develop an efficient process for polymer production so that all partners get polymer as and when they require it and further testing is ongoing.

All deliverables and milestone have been met and the project is proceeding as originally planned. 6 monthly consortium meetings and regular technical work package meeting have been occurring. A website has been established and a flyer has been distributed to all partners and partners have been disseminating information on the project where appropriate.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The project is only a third of the way through. However, of the 350 strains tested to date, 61 have been shown to have promising surfactant / emulsifier properties. These promising strains appear to be reasonably robust and this will be useful as the project progresses and the production process requires optimised.

The number of promising strains is higher than was originally expected at this stage and, although the phylogenetic identification of the first 29 sequenced MARISURF strains has revealed some similarities between strains that have been identified to be surface agent producers, the consortium is still extremely optimistic that some of the strains will be useful in commercial applications.

This has huge potential impact as:

• The strains are derived from a sustainable and non-pathogenic marine bacterial strain collection. They are of biogenic origin and so have a much better environmental profile compared to petroleum based surfactants (SAs) which are commonly used in industrial applications.
• To date, there are very few microbially derived SAs in the marketplace.
• SAs are used in numerous applications that include but not limited to food, healthcare, agriculture, public health, textiles and in environmental pollution control.
MARISURF puts the end user in the driver’s seat and throughout the first period the consortium has taken time to understand what desirable characteristics these end users would like from a new SA. These 4 end users all work in different sectors and although some of the properties they desire in a SA are similar their application is different and this therefore gives a broad scope for testing the commercial viability of SAs developed in the project. The consortium has 13 partners situated throughout Europe and also an advisory board with key biotechnology expertise. The consortium has the skills to develop promising naturally derived SAs from discovery, through to proof of concept, industrial production and application in product formulations by commercial end users. This is exciting and novel. The collaboration within the consortium is also leading to further opportunities to integrate industrial and academic research.

MARISURF supports the European Commission’s blue growth strategy with the prospect of expanding the potential field of commercialisation for marine microorganisms. If successful, this will lead to the creation of jobs and financial benefits and enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of European biotechnology industry. The surfactants being developed are likely to be less or completely non-toxic, biodegradable and more environmentally friendly than their synthetic chemical compounds. This will benefit consumers.

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