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

Prizes and awards

Microbiology Society Prokaryotic Division Committee Member (Environmental Microbiology)
Homeward Bound Leadership Faculty (Science)
Microbiology Society - elected as Prokaryotic Division member (environmental microbiology)
Selected for Homeward Bound 2018
Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) award - Scottish Crucible
2017 Science Faculty Grant Writing Challenge - overall winner

more prizes and awards


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)
Antarctic sponge associated microbial chemistry with biomedical relevance– the need for ecologically driven studies
Buchholz Holger H, Duncan Katherine R
Current Organic Chemistry (2016)
Sharing and community curation of mass spectrometry data with Global Natural Products Social Molecular Networking
Wang Mingxun, Carver Jeremy J, Phelan Vanessa V, Sanchez Laura M, Garg Neha, Peng Yao, Nguyen Don Duy, Watrous Jeramie, Kapono Clifford A, Luzzatto-Knaan Tal, Porto Carla, Bouslimani Amina, Melnik Alexey V, Meehan Michael J, Liu Wei-Ting, Crüsemann Max, Boudreau Paul D, Esquenazi Eduardo, Sandoval-Calderón Mario, Kersten Roland D, Pace Laura A, Quinn Robert A, Duncan Katherine R, Hsu Cheng-Chih, Floros Dimitrios J, Gavilan Ronnie G, Kleigrewe Karin, Northen Trent, Dutton Rachel J, Parrot Delphine, Carlson Erin E, Aigle Bertrand, Michelsen Charlotte F, Jelsbak Lars, Sohlenkamp Christian, Pevzner Pavel, Edlund Anna, McLean Jeffrey, Piel Jörn, Murphy Brian T, Gerwick Lena, Liaw Chih-Chuang, Yang Yu-Liang, Humpf Hans-Ulrich, Maansson Maria, Keyzers Robert A, Sims Amy C, Johnson Andrew R, Sidebottom Ashley M, Sedio Brian E, Klitgaard Andreas, Larson Charles B, Boya P Cristopher A, Torres-Mendoza Daniel, Gonzalez David J, Silva Denise B, Marques Lucas M, Demarque Daniel P, Pociute Egle, O'Neill Ellis C, Briand Enora, Helfrich Eric J N, Granatosky Eve A, Glukhov Evgenia, Ryffel Florian, Houson Hailey, Mohimani Hosein, Kharbush Jenan J, Zeng Yi, Vorholt Julia A, Kurita Kenji L, Charusanti Pep, McPhail Kerry L, Nielsen Kristian Fog, Vuong Lisa, Elfeki Maryam, Traxler Matthew F, Engene Niclas, Koyama Nobuhiro, Vining Oliver B, Baric Ralph, Silva Ricardo R, Mascuch Samantha J, Tomasi Sophie, Jenkins Stefan, Macherla Venkat, Hoffman Thomas, Agarwal Vinayak, Williams Philip G, Dai Jingqui, Neupane Ram, Gurr Joshua, Rodríguez Andrés M C, Lamsa Anne, Zhang Chen, Dorrestein Kathleen, Duggan Brendan M, Almaliti Jehad, Allard Pierre-Marie, Phapale Prasad, Nothias Louis-Felix, Alexandrov Theodore, Litaudon Marc, Wolfender Jean-Luc, Kyle Jennifer E, Metz Thomas O, Peryea Tyler, Nguyen Dac-Trung, VanLeer Danielle, Shinn Paul, Jadhav Ajit, Müller Rolf, Waters Katrina M, Shi Wenyuan, Liu Xueting, Zhang Lixin, Knight Rob, Jensen Paul R, Palsson Bernhard Ø, Pogliano Kit, Linington Roger G, Gutiérrez Marcelino, Lopes Norberto P, Gerwick William H, Moore Bradley S, Dorrestein Pieter C, Bandeira Nuno
Nature Biotechnology Vol 34, pp. 828-37 (2016)

more publications

Professional activities

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

more professional activities


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
Marine Natural Products: Evolution and Adaption of a Discipline
Duncan, Katherine (Principal Investigator) Richert, Lucas (Co-investigator)
02-Jan-2018 - 02-Jan-2020

more projects


Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences
Hamnett Wing

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