Service Communautaire d'Information sur la Recherche et le Développement - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - BIOCAPITAL (Cope with the Challenges and Opportunities of the 21st Century: Integrated Basic and Applied Training in a Success-oriented Bioprospecting)

The BIOCAPITAL Marie Curie Research and Training Network involved the participation of seven international partners. A total of 9 tasks (PhD projects) were planned and 10 ESRs and 4 ERs from 8 different countries contributed to the project. Most of the ESRs could complete their PhD thesis within this MC-RTN and obtained the PhD title or are about to obtain it.

The aim of this MC-RTN was the bioprospecting for the discovery of novel useful compounds from aquatic invertebrates. During the whole project several ESR PhD projects were carried on, each one investigating different types of bioactivities, focusing on one or more groups of invertebrates. Different species of sponges, together with mollusks, nudibranches, sea stars and sea cucumbers were investigated and novel bioactive molecules were identified. In doing this, the ecological role of the marine invertebrates and their interactions with the environment and the other organisms was taken very much into account, being these aspects closely related with the production of bioactive compounds (secondary metabolites and proteins / enzymes). Extraction, purification, activity and potential applications of new compounds such as biosilica enzymes, antifoulants, adhesive proteins, survivin-family proteins and others were studied at different levels. The role of symbiotic bacteria for what concern the bioactivity was investigated, in order to understand to which extent these are influencing the production of the compounds. In the case of proteins/enzymes, besides the extraction and purification, recombinant proteins were produced when possible, their activity tested and their biochemical significance was elucidated.

In particular, significant results were obtained concerning the biosilica and the enzyme responsible for its deposition in sponges, the silicatein. The appositional silica deposition was demonstrated and the catalytic activity of silicatein was proved also with other materials such as titania and zirconia, opening new horizons in medical applications such as bone replacement and reconstruction. Further projects will allow the continuation of this promising work. Using a nanotecnological approach, an enzymatically mediated controlled silica deposition onto functionalized nanoparticles was achieved. To be able to control silica deposition using the sponge enzyme instead of current high temperature industrial processes, opens up new perspectives for what concern the biomimetic nanomaterials. The studies on biosilica were published in several international peer reviewed papers and even reported in documentaries on the television.

The BIOCAPITAL project provided training through courses and workshops, allowed the students the presentation of the scientific results in more than 10 international conferences and meetings, besides the ones directly related with this project. This Marie Curie Network represented for the students an opportunity to grow up professionally and provided also a unique personal experience, adding a significant international touch to their careers.

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