Research

We believe the ocean represents a new source of opportunity.

At GMGI, our science strategy is based on a platform of advanced molecular biology and genomic technologies to address questions related to oceans and human health with three main program areas:

Biomedicine & Biotechnology

As the largest reservoir of biodiversity on the planet, the marine environment offers a tremendous and largely untapped opportunity for new discovery with the potential to directly impact human health. Genomic technologies provide a cost-effective and sustainable approach to accelerate the discovery of novel genes, pathways, and organisms that have important applications in biomedicine and biotechnology.

Marine Animal Models for Biomedical Research

The unique adaptations of marine animals have made them valuable models for biomedical research, enhancing our understanding of fundamental processes that are relevant to human health. Studying marine animals has led to significant discoveries in cellular immunology, nerve conduction, photoreceptor function, cell division, and the process of learning and memory, several of which have been recognized with Nobel Prizes. One challenge in expanding the utility of marine animals as models for biomedical research is the lack of genomic and genetic tools available for these fascinating yet understudied organisms. At GMGI, we are creating genetic and genomic tools to advance marine animals as research models with a focus on long-lived, disease resistant marine organisms.

Marine Microbial Discovery

Marine organisms produce a variety of bioactive compounds with potential as therapeutics for human disease, new enzymes for biotechnology and industry, and supplements for nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals. There are currently nine FDA-approved marine-derived drugs on the market, with more than 30 compounds in clinical trials. Marine-derived therapeutics show particular promise for treatment of cancer, infectious disease and inflammation, as well as potent, specific, and non-addictive treatments for pain. However, obtaining a sustainable large-scale supply without negatively impacting the marine environment has been one of the main challenges to realizing the full potential of marine-derived products. The application of genomics has the potential to revolutionize the field of marine biotechnology, providing a sustainable approach to accelerate discovery of new organisms, drug targets, biosynthetic processes, industrial enzymes, advanced materials, and therapeutics for disease.

Ecosystem Function & Health

Applying genomic technologies to the marine environment is transforming our understanding of ecosystem diversity and function, and is providing valuable insight to understand the impact of anthropogenic stressors (e.g. climate change, wind energy installations, bottom trawling, dredging, sewage, and other contaminants). Incorporating genetic information into environmental monitoring and modelling can reveal patterns in species occurrence and, over time, predict future changes in species range. These results can inform conservation actions to protect at-risk populations, species, and areas and can guide our marine economy (i.e. fishing and aquaculture) to support continued aquatic food production.

Diversity and Dynamics of Marine Ecosystems

Many of the ocean’s ecosystems rely on a diverse assemblage of organisms to support marine food webs and enhance productivity. In recent decades, ecological communities have been under threat from human activities and the impact of climate change. Genomic approaches can provide community-wide, fine-scale spatial and temporal resolution to assess marine biodiversity and monitor changes over time, providing a rich data source for management and conservation organizations to develop predictions and mitigation strategies.

Response to Environmental Threats

As oceans continue to warm and anthropogenic activities related to pollution and eutrophication increase, the balance of marine ecosystems can shift in ways that create substantial and long-term impacts on the oceans and the fishing industry. At GMGI, we are developing and utilizing genomic tools that can help us understand the dynamics of biological responses like harmful algal blooms, presence of indicator species, and viral outbreaks to changing ocean conditions. Understanding the mechanics and processes involved in reactions to environmental threats will help managers quickly diagnose and mitigate costly biological responses to help reduce their economic and health impact on coastal communities.

Fisheries & Aquaculture

Advances in next-generation sequencing and genome-wide analysis are enabling new applications in fisheries. Genomic approaches can be used to understand population structure, biodiversity, the genetic basis of disease resistance, and adaptation to different marine environments. Genomic data and cutting-edge molecular techniques can support swift, data-driven decision making and the responsible management of valuable marine resources.

Genomics and Genetics of Fish and Shellfish

Genomic technologies are transforming the field of population genetics by providing a detailed evaluation of population structure to better understand geographic and seasonal variation in population composition, migration patterns, and the genetic underpinnings of disease resistance. Sequencing the genomes of commercially important species can provide insights into genes associated with complex traits including growth and resistance to disease and may enable the development of genomic tools to provide the best information on fisheries resources to the community.

Aquatic Animal Disease Diagnostics

Aquaculture represents the fastest growing animal protein sector in global food production. However, raising aquatic animals at high density under aquaculture conditions has led to the emergence and spread of an increasing array of new diseases, some of which can have devastating consequences for food security and great economic losses. Developing highly sensitive tests for disease diagnostics would allow for early detection and containment strategies to mitigate losses. Modern isothermal DNA amplification and/or synthetic biology technologies represent promising approaches to create novel, sensitive, specific tests that could have a significant positive impact on global aquaculture practices and capture fisheries.