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Centre for Marine Biotechnology


Welcome to the SAMS Centre for Marine Biotechnology!

Thriving in the most extreme environments on Earth, marine organisms offer a biological and chemical diversity unrivalled in terrestrial systems. They provide a unique and invaluable resource in the search for novel, functional compounds and fossil fuel replacements. SAMS Centre for Marine Biotechnology undertakes research and provides services, training and education to support the development of the marine biotechnology sector in the UK and across Europe.

The Centre specialises in bioprospecting and development of products and services from marine organisms. Underpinned by the UK Culture Collection of Algae and Protozoa (CCAP), hosted by SAMS, the Centre focuses largely on three groups of marine organisms: marine bacteria, microalgae and macroalgae, and investigates these organisms for use in:

Natural Products

With increasing public demand for ‘natural products’ in human nutrition and personal care and an urgent need to identify new sources of antibacterial compounds, marine organisms offer a rich relatively untapped resource of unique biological and chemical compounds. We specialise in:

  • Organism composition
  • Compound extraction
  • Culture and growth techniques (including scale up)


Algae and bacteria thrive in nutrient rich waters. This characteristic could be crucial in the cost effective treatment of nutrient rich waste streams such as waste water. We are investigating the feasibility and development of micro and macro algae as a tool for bioremediation in wastewater treatment and integrated closed looped bioremediation – bioenergy systems.

Bioenergy & biofuels

As society strives to find sustainable and effective substitutes for fossil fuels, marine algae [macro algae (seaweed) and microalgae] could contribute towards the production of biofuels for transport and bioenergy for heat. SAMS are applying our knowledge of marine algae to investigate the potential and develop the techniques to support the development of sustainable biofuels and bioenergy from marine biomass. Specifically we are investigating:

  • Microalgae as a source of oils for biofuels
  • Macroalgae as a feedstock for anaerobic digestion to (bio) methane
  • Macroalgae as a source of (bio) ethanol 


Research Projects

From sea-bed to test-bed: harvesting the potential of marine biodiversity for industrial biotechnology.

This EU FP7 Funded project, led by Strathclyde University with partners from nine European countries, aims to create innovative marine biodiscovery pipelines as a means to convert the potential of marine biotechnology into novel industrial biotechnology products for the pharmaceutical (human and aquaculture), cosmetic, functional food and industrial chemistry sectors.

Within this project SAMS will assist in the development of a natural product biodiscovery pipeline, develop the tools and fundamental science of genomic and metabolomics bioprospecting, as well as undertaking research into genetic and metmetabolomics engineering of targeted potential production organisms.

See the SeaBioTech website for more details of this industrial biotechnology project, or contact Dr Michele Stanley or Dr John Day


SuBB: Sustainable bioenergy from microalgae: A systems perspective

As our reliance on fossil fuels becomes ever more unsustainable, bioenergy has the potential to mitigate carbon emission concerns and provide a sustainable energy source. In theory microalgae absorb solar energy and CO2 to grow; their biomass rich in oil could provide a potential renewable source of biomass for bioenergy. However, development of economically efficient processes that use this concept to make a difference to the energy economy has so far proved elusive. This UK-India BBSRC Funded project, led by the University of Sheffield aims to tackle this problem. Taking a systems approach SuBB will investigate microalgae metabolism, including approaches that use synthetic biology and metabolic engineering. Further, waste water streams from collaborating industrial partners will be tested as growth media for microalgal production to produce a sustainable waste-energy system to support the sustainable cultivation of algal biomass for bioenergy.

For further information please contact Dr Michele Stanley

IBioIC Exemplar Project: Optimising the production of a biologically active microalgal polysaccharide

Interest in the use of microalgae for industrial applications has increased hugely over the past 10 years. Earlier studies on secondary metabolites and natural products indicated the potential for discovery, but it was not until the drive for new green energy sources took place, that significant investment began.

The scale-up and bioprocessing of algal products remain challenging and there are various obstacles to commercialisation, both in terms of the amount of material that can be produced, and cost-effective technology to harvest it.

Led by the SME Glycomar this project taps into the current business interest in algal culturing systems, high value algal products, and into the need for new technology to deliver the advancements necessary for commercialisation.

For further information on marine polysaccharide projects please contact Dr Michele Stanley.

Enalgae: Energetic Algae

The project is developing sustainable technologies for algal biomass production, bioenergy and greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation, taking them from pilot facilities through to market-place products and services.

Within this project SAMS is providing expertise and an evidence-base with respect to the application of best-practice of maintenance of master-stocks of micro and macro-algae. Future algal biotechnology processes have a fundamental requirement for stable (genotypically and functionally) stock-cultures that are employed to undertake biotechnological processes, or produce products of commercial relevance.

This EU Interreg IVB NEW Programme brings together 19 partners and 14 observers across seven EU Member States.

For more information regarding algal biomass for bioenergy research, please visit the EnAlgae Website or contact Dr Michele Stanley, or Dr John Day.

We are also partners on


Unlocking the Industrial Biotechnology potential of microalgae: Alongside University College London, SAMS co-lead this Industry-Academia Network, one of 13 networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy funded by BBSRC.

Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC)

One of 5 Scottish Funding Council supported centres designed to promote and facilitate industry-academic collaboration to support innovation and development of industrial biotechnological processes and products across Scotland.

Scottish Biofuel Programme

SAMS is one of five partners on this £1.6million ERDF project, led by Napier University's Biofuel Research Centre, together with the University of Edinburgh Biochar Research Centre, University of Abertay and the Scottish Agricultural College.

The Scottish Biofuel Programme works directly with small and medium sized enterprises in the Scottish business sector providing a wide range of expertise and support in the conversion of biomass waste to energy and the production of sustainable biofuels. SAMS works alongside other partner institutions to develop company specific sustainable solutions for biofuels and bioenergy. SAMS brings expertise in the use of seaweed biomass for anaerobic digestion to bioenergy, fermentation to bioethanol and the use of microalgae to treat wastewater and conversion to liquid fuels


Education & Training


Facilities & Services

A number of facilities at SAMS are supporting the Centre for Marine Biotechnology

 Debi_III_small Phil Kerrison on SAMS seaweed farm Molecular biology 4 

Our Contact Details

SAMS Centre for Marine Biotechnology logo

Centre for Marine Biotechnology
SAMS, Scottish Marine Institute
Oban, Argyll PA37 1QA, UK