Student Research Projects

Extraction of Microbial compounds from Red Beard Sponge Microcina Prolifera from Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay

Student Lilly Moon, '16
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Chemistry
Course Chemistry 489: Research in the Natural Sciences


There are increased needs to find new anti-viral and anti-bacterial therapeutics to counteract a growing number of pathogens that have developed multidrug resistance. The traditional methods of using synthetic libraries and drug design are limited to producing few lead compounds, which leaves natural product drug design as a favorable option. The marine organisms prove to be an excellent source because about half of the total biodiversity is comprised of marine organisms that offer abundant sources to discover new and useful therapeutics. The first living organisms appeared in the sea more than 3500 million years ago and evolutionary development has equipped many marine organisms with defensive chemical weapons for their protection to survive in a hostile environment which they had to overcome the threat of bacterial and viral pathogens. Therefore, studying these organisms and their chemical properties have high potential to yield useful anti-bacterial or anti-viral compounds. Last year, I found some anti-microbial activity in the red-bearded sponge, Microcina Prolifera, which led to further interest in research. For this research, the sponge specimens from the Chesapeake Bay collected in 2014 and stored at -2̊0C, as well as fresh specimens from Gulf of Mexico were tested for anti-microbial activities. The same extraction method was applied, yet both sponges failed to show similar anti-microbial activities as had previously been observed with the Chesapeake Bay specimen, which led to new extraction method with 4% saline. However, he sponges still did not show the same results as last time. The negative results indicated that the storage method in the freezer especially for long period of time (12+ months) aren’t the best choice since the anti-microbial activity diminished after prolonged storage, and the red beard sponges from the Gulf of Mexico were visually different and might have a different chemical composition than the red beard sponge in the East Coast. The result of the analysis will be further discussed.


Virginia Wesleyan Undergraduate Research Grant for Research, 2015-16