Dr Katherine Duncan

Strathclyde Chancellor's Fellow

Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences

Personal statement

Marine Natural Products Drug Discovery

We discover new medicines, primarily antibiotics, from the oceans.

Since the discovery of penicliin in 1928, natural products produced by microorganisms have provided society with a multitude of antibiotics, which has revolutionized modern medicine. Some bacteria are better than others at producing biologically active chemicals, in fact the Order Actinomycetales (within the Phyla Actinobacteria) are unsurpassed, as they produce over 70% of bioactive microbial natural products. Since the "golden age" of drug discovery from the 1930s-1970s, rediscovery of known chemistry has resulted in a decline in new drugs reaching clinical trials.

In the 1970s the field of marine natural products started (with the advent of SCUBA diving), scientists focused for the first time on the marine environment as a source of new biodiversity and thus chemical diversity. This research field traditionally studied marine invertebrates, such as sponges and coral, however much focus is now dedicated to the bacteria both within sediment and in association with macro marine organisms as a sustainable (through culture and fermentation) source of new chemistry.

Our multi-disciplinary research knowledge within the area of drug discovery encompasses biotechnology, metabolomics, microbiology, next generation sequencing, anticancer and antimicrobial bioactivities, whole genome sequencing, genome mining for biosynthetic gene clusters, molecular biology, natural products chemistry and bioinformatics, providing a powerful strategy for high-throughput and innovative drug discovery. We aim to accelerate the discovery of new drugs through several scientific research areas:

  • Exploring Taxonomic, Phylogenetic and Geographic Boundaries of Specialized Metabolites for Targeted Drug Discovery and Drug Lead Prioritization
  • Integrated -omics Approaches to Drug Discovery
  • Understanding Microbial Interactions for Informed Bioprospecting, Biotechnology and Biomedicine Applications

Please visit the Duncan lab website: www.medicinesfromthesea.com


Bioassay- and metabolomics-guided screening of bioactive soil actinomycetes from the ancient city of Ihnasia, Egypt
Sebak Mohamed, Saafan Amal E, AbdelGhani Sameh, Bakeer Walid, El-Gendy Ahmed O, Castaño Espriu Laia, Duncan Katherine, Edrada-Ebel RuAngelie
PLOS One Vol 14 (2019)
The Natural Products Atlas : an open access knowledge base for microbial natural products discovery
van Santen Jeffrey A, Jacob Grégoire, Singh Amrit Leen, Aniebok Victor, Balunas Marcy J, Bunsko Derek, Carnevale Neto Fausto, Castanño-Espriu Laia, Chang Chen, Clark Trevor N, Cleary Little Jessica L, Delgadillo David A, Dorrestein Pieter C, Duncan Katherine R, Egan Joseph M, Galey Melissa M, Haeckl FP Jake, Hua Alex, Hughes Alison H, Iskakova Dasha, Khadilkar Aswad, Lee Jung-Ho, Lee Sanghoon, LeGrow Nicole, Liu Dennis Y, Macho Jocelyn M, McCaughey Catherine S, Medema Marnix H, Neupane Ram P, O’Donnell Timothy J, Paula Jasmine S, Sanchez Laura M, Shaikh Anam F, Soldatou Sylvia, Terlouw Barbara R, Tran Tuan Anh, Valentine Mercia, van der Hooft Justin J J, Vo Duy A, Wang Mingxun, Wilson Darryl, Zink Katherine E, Linington Roger G
ACS Central Science Vol 5, pp. 1824-1833 (2019)
Awakening ancient polar actinobacteria : diversity, evolution and specialized metabolite potential
Millán-Aguiñaga Natalie, Soldatou Sylvia, Brozio Sarah, Munnoch John T, Howe John, Hoskisson Paul A, Duncan Katherine R
Microbiology Vol 165, pp. 1169-1180 (2019)
Linking biosynthetic and chemical space to accelerate microbial secondary metabolite discovery
Soldatou Sylvia, Eldjarn Grimur Hjorleifsson, Huerta-Uribe Alejandro, Rogers Simon, Duncan Katherine
FEMS Microbiology Letters Vol 366 (2019)
Temperature driven changes in benthic bacterial diversity influences biogeochemical cycling in coastal sediments
Hicks Natalie, Liu Xuan, Gregory Richard, Kenny John, Lucaci Anita, Lenzi Luca, Paterson David M, Duncan Katherine R
Frontiers in Microbiology Vol 9 (2018)
An integrative approach to decipher the chemical antagonism between the competing endophytes paraconiothyrium variabile and Bacillus subtilis
Vallet Marine, Vanbellingen Quentin P, Fu Tingting, Le Caer Jean-Pierre, Della-Negra Serge, Touboul David, Duncan Katherine R, Nay Bastien, Brunelle Alain, Prado Soizic
Journal of Natural Products Vol 80, pp. 2863–2873 (2017)

more publications

Professional activities

Linking genes to chemistry - the story so far
Skaggs School of Pharmacy, Dorrestein Group
Multi-omics microbial antibiotic discovery / Round Table: Big Data for Industrial Microorganisms
Microbiology Society Annual Conference 2019
IBioIC Annual Conference
Women in science leadership and medicines from the sea

more professional activities


University of Strathclyde Interdisciplinary Centre for Doctoral Training in Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)
Corrigan, Damion (Co-investigator) Duncan, Katherine (Co-investigator) McCormick, Christopher (Co-investigator) Murray, Paul (Co-investigator) Dunphy, Raymond David (Post Grad Student) Riordan, Lily (Post Grad Student) Lasserre, Perrine (Post Grad Student)
01-Jan-2019 - 31-Jan-2023
Combatting antimicrobial resistance through new software for Natural Products Discovery (Tools and Resources Development Fund)
Duncan, Katherine (Principal Investigator) Hoskisson, Paul (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2018 - 30-Jan-2020
Combatting antimicrobial resistance through new software for natural product discovery
Duncan, Katherine (Co-investigator) Rogers, Simon (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2018 - 01-Jan-2019
Exploiting Pseudomonas for the production of methacrylate for the plastics industry
Tucker, Nicholas (Principal Investigator) Duncan, Katherine (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2018 - 30-Jan-2022
Characterizing novel marine microbial chemistry to combat antimicrobial resistance AMR
Duncan, Katherine (Principal Investigator)
28-Jan-2018 - 22-Jan-2018
Microbiology Society Harry Smith Internship
Duncan, Katherine (Principal Investigator)
14-Jan-2018 - 16-Jan-2018

more projects


Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences
Hamnett Wing

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