• Image of a female scientists with flasks in our algal culture collection
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    Exploring nature's chemistry treasure chest

Marine biotechnology research at SAMS

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, bioremediation and bioenergy.

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.


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 

We are a partner in the following networks


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.