At the beginning of April this year, the TASCMAR project, funded by the European Union was launched under the HORIZON 2020 program. The project, run by the Chemistry Research Institute under CNRS (France), includes researchers from a range of leading research and industrial institutions in Europe, Thailand and Israel. The Israeli partners include Prof. Yehuda (Hodi) Benihu, the Director of the Environmental Zoology in the name of Israel Cohen, at the Tel Aviv University Department of Zoology, and also the “Ecoocean” organization that works to preserve the coastal and marine environment. The project aims to examine the feasibility of using chemical compounds found in marine organisms such as invertebrates, bacteria, algae and fungi in the pharmaceutical industry, especially the one dealing with the aging process. Most of the research will be done in deep water, where there is a great potential for finding organisms that have yet been studied for the purpose of finding new sources for the production of natural materials for use in medicines and cosmetics.

BACKGROUND

Today, Marine biotechnology is considered one of the most emerging and promising areas in the forefront of marine research. Amongst other things, many resources are devoted to the discovery and production of materials for the pharmaceutical industry from diverse marine sources, with an emphasis on bacteria, algae and fungi, that live in cooperation with other organisms or freely in the water and on the seabed. It appears that the processes of evolution have led to many marine organisms, including those at the bottom of the sea, to adapt to the environment in which they are found, using natural materials that they produce in biological and physiological processes, for example in relation to their reproductive cycles. These materials are an innovative and promising source in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. They are referred to as "natural products" and are sometimes characterized by characteristics that are beneficial to the individual in the medical and other fields.

The Project

The European Union have invested considerable efforts and budgets in the struggle against problematic phenomena resulting from the prolonged life expectancy of the human population, which often accompanies high morbidity rates and poses a series of challenges that have not been known in the past, and which constitute a significant economic burden. One of the goals chosen by the Horizon 2020 program is a very significant attempt to find solutions to the negative effects that accompany the prolongation of life expectancy.

On the one hand, there is a blessing in the long-life expectancy, but on the other hand, it presents serious problems to the medical world and the fields close to it. The aim of this study, which Tel Aviv University and Ecoocean Organization is involved, is the application of marine biomolecules in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. The assumption is that findings in this field, especially research in deep sea areas that are relatively less studied, will lead to breakthrough discoveries. Later, the organisms from which the interesting materials are produced, whether marine invertebrates or bacteria, algae and/or fungi will be grown in a controlled and intensively in laboratory conditions, in order to ensure a continuous and sustainable supply of organisms for the commercial production of the materials discovered in the project. The basis of the project, and in accordance with European Community policy, is environmental, preserving and exploiting the biological diversity of the sea in a way that will ensure its continued existence and prosperity. Five unique academic research institutions are participating in this unique project in a number of seas: the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Together with them are seven leading pharma and cosmetic companies, as well as Ecoocean of Israel, which operates the MedExplorer research vessel, through which the organisms in the Mediterranean are sampled. In addition, Ecoocean is responsible for the environmental aspects of the project.