FAO, Factsheet, WP5, SponGES


Objectives. We are studying deep-sea sponges of the North Atlantic to discover new sponge-derived products and processes with applications in human health, biomaterials, and other industrial applications. The aim of Work Package 5 is to improve innovation and industrial application by unlocking the biotechnological potential of sponge grounds ecosystems. To reach this aim, the following objectives are being addressed:

  • Assess the metabolic diversity of key sponge ground species using metabolomics to identify sponge ground bioproducts with industrial potential.
  • Search for genes responsible for secondary metabolite production using an integrated metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, and metabolomics approach, and conduct bioprospecting of marine sponge microbiomes.
  • Assess the biomedical potential of inorganic silica on tissue regeneration, and synthesize analogous silica particles, mimicking sponge composition, with biomedical applications.
  • Develop novel 3-D printed tissue engineering scaffolds inspired by the composition and/or architecture of deep-sea sponges.

Focus. Work Package 5 focuses on the biology of deep-sea sponges and their associated microorganisms to identify products or processes with pharmaceutical and biotechnological applications. In addition, their chemical and morphological features are being studied, to serve as inspiration for the development of biomaterials for tissue regeneration, in a marine biomimetics strategy.

Why is this important? Sponges are the most prolific source of marine-derived chemicals with pharmaceutical applications; some of these chemicals are in clinical development as drugs to treat diseases such as cancer. How and why they produce these chemicals, and what role microbial symbionts play, is not well understood, especially in the deep sea, where only recent technological advances allow to explore. In addition, deep-sea sponges produce intricate and hierarchic silica skeletons that are inspiring not only exquisite building architecture and notably research on bone tissue engineering within regenerative medicine. Nevertheless, deep-sea sponges are still a relatively unknown world. Our aim is to develop novel products and processes that can be applied to human health, biotechnology materials science, and other industrial applications. This will boost the Blue (Bio) Economy and will help create new job opportunities. By demonstrating the value of deep-sea sponge grounds, we aim to raise awareness on the need to plan for their conservation and sustainable management.

Discover more about SponGES WP5download the WP5 Infosheet here.