Biological and chemical diversity from the oceans


Marine Natural Products in Healthcare

The technology underlying GlycoMar's products is based on our understanding of the fundamentals of glycobiology, the therapeutic area of inflammation, and natural products based discovery and development.

GlycoMar has taken a focused approach to discovery of novel products from a very wide range of organism, primarily marine. We specialise in the isolation and purification of glycobiology products from any source, especially marine organisms, but excluding mammals. The original motivation for this approach is based on the drug heparin, a naturally occurring glycosaminoglycan, used for its anti-coagulant properties, but also known to have extensive anti-inflammatory activity through numerous mechanisms. The complex and variable chemistry offered by this and other related molecules underpins the range of their actions (see Glycobiology section).

Our technology taps into this chemical diversity by sourcing compounds from environments which have both unique chemical, and therefore biological, activity profiles. Compounds with preferred chemical profiles are subject to a suite of biological cell-based assays, to confirm basic characteristics (eg. lack of cytotoxicity) as well as more specific activity related to anti-inflammatory disease applications.

GlycoMar selects species for their potential to provide novel compounds, and for their availability and future environmental and commercial sustainability. Our innovative approach allows us to exploit the biological and chemical diversity of the oceans for the benefit of human health.


Diversity of Marine life

The oceans cover 70% of the earth’s surface and marine environment offers a diversity of habitats which is reflected in the biological diversity that is found in marine organisms.


Highlighted phyla, which include microalgae and marine invertebrates, have been included in GlycoMar's discovery programme. (The Diversity of marine life: Marine phyla adapted from Bouchet, P. (2006). The magnitude of marine biodiversity, in: Duarte, C.M. (Ed.) (2006). The exploration of marine biodiversity: scientific and technological challenges. pp. 31-62 )

The Earth is home to an estimated 10 million species. These are divided by biologists into 3 main kingdoms: fungi, plants and animals. The animal kingdom provides a good example of the diversity of marine organisms: it is divided into a further 33 distinct groups (or phyla), of which 11 phyla exist in terrestrial environments and 28 phyla living in the sea, of which 15 are exclusively marine. Examples of exclusively marine phyla include the echinoderms (starfish and their relatives), ctenophores (comb jellies), hemichordates (acorn worms) and the echiurans (trumpet worms).

Animal Phyla: showing marine (blue) and terrestrial (pink) Phyla with estimated species numbers.

Among the other kingdoms the marine environment is know to offer 23 protist phyla, 1 plant phylum, 1 fungal phylum, and 14 bacterial phyla. The protists include the microalgae and macroalgae, many of which are wholly marine. For more information consult the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS, and Ocean Planet exhibition (

Marine Natural Products

Marine organisms have developed unique metabolic and physiological capabilities that ensure survival in diverse habitats, and have resulted in the evolution of an array of secondary metabolites and unique glycochemistry. Several compounds have been developed commercially, with many others in preclinical and clinical development. The Marine Pharmacology website reports 11 drugs in clinical development, and many other compounds that have pharmacological activity: 592 marine compounds that showed antitumor and cytotoxic activity, and 666 additional chemicals which demonstrated other pharmacological activities i.e. antibacterial, anticoagulant, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, anthelmintic, antiplatelet, antiprotozoal, and antiviral activities; with actions on the cardiovascular, endocrine, immune, and nervous systems; and other miscellaneous mechanisms of action. GlycoMar is focussing current efforts on harnessing these natural marine bioactive compounds for use in innovative psoriasis treatments, new anti-inflammatory research, and novel treatments for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

A significant focus of marine natural products research in recent decades has been on anti-cancer activity, under a National Cancer Institute programme (which is delivering a pipeline of anti-cancer for development).