My research interests are mainly in the field of marine sponge microbiome. The current running project is to unlock the intracellular microbial endosymbionts of marine sponges for new drug discovery. Marine sponges contribute over 30% of all marine natural products discovered so far and their associated microbes are considered as the major contributor. We aim to establish the fundamental understanding of sponge intracellular endosymbionts to explore untapped microbial resources for drug development. My focus is to understand endosymbiotic microbiome of different types of sponge cells. The protocols of sponge cultivation, sponge cells dissociation, separation, and purification are developed and optimised. A multi-primer approach (amplicon-based metagenomic sequencing) developed in my PhD is employed to reveal the endosymbiotic microbial profile. The functional pathways indicated by the whole genome analysis of purified sponge cells uncover the relationship between the specific microbiome and their unique secondary metabolite profile. Moreover, I am also interested in the methodology development to isolate the endosymbiotic microbes from sponge cells in the biologically complex holobiont and make them culturable in the laboratory conditions. The secondary metabolites provided by the endosymbionts could be the promising resources of novel bioactive compounds, which are of significant interest to drug discovery due to a growing need for the development of new and potent therapeutic agents.
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