GAME: "Genetic Approaches and cultivation protocols to unravel MEtabolite production of Porphyra spp. targeted towards human and plant health applications"

01 January 2024 → 30 June 2027
Regional and community funding: IWT/VLAIO
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Plant developmental and reproductive biology
    • Plant genetics
  • Medical and health sciences
    • Nutraceuticals
  • Agricultural and food sciences
    • Agricultural plant protection
    • Agrochemistry and fertilisers
    • Aquaculture
seaweed biostimulant nutraceutical poprhyra Biorefinery
Project description

Macroalgae or seaweeds are internationally recognized as an essential link in the development of a circular bioeconomy and are as such specifically mentioned in EU policy such as the Green Deal, Farm to Fork, and the EU4Algae initiative. The GAME project will address knowledge gaps that impede current valorisation of European Porphyra, a genus of red algae that is farmed at large scale in Asia for human food (nori), but Porphyra has also potential for use in various biotechnological applications, including the production of bioactive compounds, food additives, and renewable energy.

GAME will leverage from Porphyra‘s inter- and intra-specific genetic and biochemical variability to elucidate the mechanisms behind bioactive metabolite production (phycobiliproteins, sulfated polysaccharides and mycosporine-like amino acids (MAA), flavonoids and other important bioactive compounds), tailored to applications as nutraceuticals, biostimulants UV protectans for crops, and biocontrol products. The innovation lies in using linking biological processes (growth, reproduction, secondary metabolite production) with state-of-the-art genetics and demonstrating the action of bioactive metabolites as nutraceuticals and agricultural-biologicals. The research of GAME will lead to targeted life cycle control and cultivation protocols. Tailor-made extraction techniques including pre- and post-harvest treatments for the preparation of Porphyra extracts which will be developed using in-house protocols (HPLC, UV/vis, FTIR multivariate analysis) to elucidate and enhance the bioactivity of extracts for targeted applications. Differentiation in extract composition is made by applying multiple postharvest treatments. The extracts will be validated for their application potential:

1. Nutraceuticals: applying Caco2 cell lines for digestive uptake assays using (i) raw extracts, (ii) digested extracts using method in vivo digestion (oral, gastric and intestinal phases) and (iii) other isolated compounds of interest.
2. High value agricultural-biologicals: (i) Phycobiliproteins (antifungal), (ii) sulfated polysaccharides (resistance induction) and (iii) MAAs (protection against heat/UV-stress due to combined UV blocking and expected biostimulant activity).
3. Biostimulants and bio-based fertilizers: The residue left after processing of the seaweed will be a valuable biostimulant, soil conditioner (cell wall residue as a source of soil organic matter) and fertilizer.