TASCMAR is an EU funded Horizon 2020 project led by the CNRS, France, in collaboration with 13 academic and commercial project partners in Europe, Israel and Thailand. The project aims at overcoming existing bottlenecks in the discovery and commercial application of marine-derived chemical compounds, thereby contributing to implementing the EU Blue Growth Strategy. The starting bioresources investigated are marine invertebrates – animals like soft corals, sponges and echinoderms as well as the innumerable microorganisms that live in/on them. While the ocean represents a tremendous source of chemical diversity with an extremely wide range of potential applications, a key challenge is sourcing the compounds in large enough quantity while respecting the marine environment. The key contributions of TASCMAR in this respect are found in innovative technologies and methods for cultivating the key resources in the laboratory and in setting the standards in terms of sustainability. This includes aquaculture of the invertebrates, also large-scale cultivation of their symbionts and coming up with protocols and policy recommendations about how marine invertebrates in previously unexplored areas of the ocean should be best collected in terms of sustainability. A key ground-breaking theme in TASCMAR is the exploration of the mesophotic zone of the ocean – a belt between about 30 to 120 metres which remains largely unexplored. As a result, there is a significant chance for novelty in terms of discovering new biological and chemical diversity – in fact, species previously unknown to science have already been discovered. Mesophotic microorganisms will be tested for their possible application as biocatalysts for bioremediation – a means of breaking down pollutants using living organisms. For example, TASCMAR researchers are targeting persistent organic pollutants identified in the Stockholm Convention as posing a serious threat in terms of the health of humans and the environment. Another main application investigated will be the activity of the molecules discovered capable of intervening in age-related diseases and disorders, representing a major challenge in Europe and worldwide.

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