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Personal profile

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

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, University of Prince Edward Island

16 Sep 200812 Jul 2012

Master of Chemistry, Florida Atlantic University

5 Jan 200530 May 2005

Master of Chemistry, University of Aberdeen

Sep 2000May 2005


  • Drug discovery
  • Marine Natural Products
  • actinomycetes
  • Microbial ecology
  • Biogeography
  • Ecological function of specialised metabolites
  • Metabolomics
  • Comparative omics

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics where Katherine Duncan is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

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Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Projects 2016 2022

Research Output 2013 2019

Awakening ancient polar actinobacteria: diversity, evolution and specialized metabolite potential

Millán-Aguiñaga, N., Soldatou, S., Brozio, S., Munnoch, J. T., Howe, J., Hoskisson, P. & Duncan, K., 7 Aug 2019, (Accepted/In press) In : Microbiology.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Linking biosynthetic and chemical space to accelerate microbial secondary metabolite discovery

Soldatou, S., Eldjarn, G. H., Huerta-Uribe, A., Rogers, S. & Duncan, K., 28 Jun 2019, In : FEMS Microbiology Letters . fnz142.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Multigene Family
Synthetic Biology

Activities 2000 2018

Chemistry & Biology of Natural Products. Warwick University

Katherine Duncan (Participant)
28 Jun 201829 Jun 2018

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

Omics guided antibiotic discovery from our Oceans

Katherine Duncan (Speaker)
Apr 2018

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk