MARBLES Useful molecules from the sea

Aplysina fistularis sponge

The MARBLES Project aims to develop new methods for the sustainable collection and use of biological resources from marine environments and assess their commercial potential. Together we will harness the unexplored potential of marine microorganisms as producers of novel antimicrobial agents and as bioprotectants in aqua- and agriculture, using an integrative, ecology-based strategy for bioprospecting. MARBLES is addressing the challenges of finding and identifying the bacteria and their molecules, extracting their active ingredients in a sustainable, effective way, and the commercial and regulatory difficulties of bringing a discovery from the lab to market.

Project coordinator: Prof. Dr. Gilles van Wezel (Leiden University)

Naturalis is involved in the part of MARBLES that focuses on sponge and sponge microbiome diversity. 

More information on

Sustainable discoveries
from nature

The marine environment remains a largely untapped and poorly understood source of natural products with potential for application in the pharmaceutical and food industries. Challenges include finding and identifying the bacteria and their molecules, extracting their active ingredients in a sustainable, effective way, and the commercial and regulatory difficulties of bringing a discovery from the lab to market. In the context of an increasing global population and the current climate and biodiversity crises, there is an urgent need to sustainably harness new compounds with pharmaceutical and nutritional applications. These are the issues that MARBLES will address. 

A sea
of possibilities

Pink seaspongeThe objectives of the project include discovering microbes and microbial consortia for use as bioprotectants in aquaculture and agriculture, developing small molecule and microbial consortia formulations for sustainable commercial exploitation, discovering microbial small molecule compounds with antifungal or antimicrobial activity, discovering product candidates with potential human health applications, discovering elicitors that enhance expression of silent biosynthetic gene clusters for improved screening regimes, and providing science-based advice for policy discussions related to bio-based biotechnology.

Through these objectives, MARBLES is committed to supporting sustainable discoveries from nature, developing sustainable methods for their exploitation, and promoting the development of natural, environmentally friendly products as alternatives to environmentally detrimental chemicals and drugs, while reducing pressure on wild populations. Additionally, we aim to increase public-private collaboration in biotechnology and to enhance public knowledge about the potential of biodiversity. Throughout the entire process, environmental and economic sustainability is ensured.

In conclusion

MARBLES aims to harness the potential of the marine environment for sustainable biodiscovery of natural products with applications in the pharmaceutical and food industries, while reducing the pressure on wild populations and providing environmentally friendly alternatives to environmentally detrimental chemicals and drugs.
Streptomyces coelicolor enlarged. (Gilles van Wezel)

96-well microtiter plate for bioscreening of substances

MARBLES is part of the AIMS cluster of four research projects funded under the Call ‘FNR-11-2020: Prospecting aquatics and terrestrial natural biological resources for biologically active compounds.’

The four cluster projects are Algae4IBD, InnCoCells, MARBLES and SECRETed (AIMS).

The MARBLES project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement no. 101000392 (MARBLES).

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Working on


MARBLES has an interdisciplinary multinational consortium 14 partners from 10 European countries. 

  • Leiden University (Netherlands)
  • ERINN Innovation Ltd (Ireland)
  • SINTEF AS (Norway)
  • Wageningen University (Netherlands)
  • University of Aberdeen (United Kingdom)
  • University College Cork (Ireland)
  • Naicons SRL (Italy)
  • Danmarks Tekniske Universiteit (Denmark)
  • Naturalis Biodiversity Center (Netherlands)
  • Eidegenoessische Technische Hochschule Zuerichethz (Switzerland)
  • Fundacion Centro de Excellencia en Investiacion de Medicamentos Innovadores en Andalucia - MEDINA (Spain)
  • Fraunhofer Gesellschaft zur Foerderung der Angewandten Forschung E.V. (Germany)
  • European Infrastructure of Open Screening Platforms for Chemical Biology European Research Infrastructure Consortium - EU OPENSCREEN ERIC (Germany)
  • ABS International (Belgium)

The project is coordinated by Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Sealed 384 well microtiter plate for bioassay screening of substances

Algae growing in flasks. credit Nathalie Henriksen DTU

Seascape with Green Moray Eel in turquoise water of coral reef in Caribbean Sea around Curacao


Press releases

Find more information on our publications and data (public deliverables coming soon) on the results page 
Stay up to date through our MARBLES news page
Join us at our events through MARBLES events page
Find our project promotional materials and outreach activities on our MARBLES resources page