Benthic Biodiversity from the Agulhas Bioregion as a source of new pharmaceuticals

Evans peak reef Evans peak reef Evans peak reef
Evans peak reef Evans peak reef ROV collections

Principal Investigator: Rosemary Dorrington

Project Abstract:
More than half of new pharmaceutical drugs on the market or in clinical trials are natural products and their derivatives and the majority of these are now coming from marine sources (invertebrates, algae and bacteria). Novel marine natural products, several of which have promising applications in the pharmaceutical industry, have been isolated from invertebrates collected from the diversity-rich shallow water habitats of the Agulhas Bioregion. This proposal seeks to expand the search for new natural products to the unexplored coastal shelf of the Agulhas Bioregion. The focus will be on St Francis Bay and Algoa Bay, which are uniquely influenced by oceanographic features including warm tropical waters from the Agulhas current and upwelling of cool, nutrient rich bottom waters, providing habitats for the unusually rich diversity of marine species. The aim of the project is to map the benthic biodiversity of selected sites to identify biodiversity hotspots and to evaluate the biological activity of secondary metabolites produced by new macro-fauna taxa and their associated microorganisms. The study will provide valuable fundamental data on the structure and diversity of benthic communities and species distribution and potentially provide a pipeline of new natural products for the pharmaceutical industry.



  1. Samantha Waterworth (PhD): Sponge microbial diversity
  2. Storm Hilliar (MSc): Sponge microbial diversity
  3. Jarmo Kalinski (MSc): Marine natural products chemistry
  4. Holisha Moodley (MSc): Bioactivity assays
  5. Eric Isamonger (MSc): Marine microbial diversity
  6. Nothando Mbatha (MSc): Sponge diversity and taxonomy
  7. Hannah Raven (MSc): Benthci mapping
  8. Lihle Moyakhe (Hons): Bioactivity assays
  9. Boingiwe Khimbini (BSc): Sponge diversity and taxonomy
  10. Jessica Seeth (BSc): Sponge diversity mapping
  11. Avuyonke Balfour (ad hoc research assitance): Marine natural products chemistry