About the project


An unprecedented focus on the WA marine estate for conservation, medical research and the development of the oil and gas industry is providing new opportunities to explore marine biodiversity.

Our pristine and biodiverse oceans have the potential to offer a wealth of raw, genetic materials to develop pharmaceutical and other biotechnology products.

Many of WA’s marine species are found nowhere else in the world.

Sponges and sea squirts have some of the world’s highest rates of anti-tumour activity and have the potential to be used in cancer screening programs while cyanobacteria have been identified as having the potential to develop biofuels. Ingredients from marine filter feeders such as sponges are being used in cosmetics, medicine, sunscreens, antifoulants and industrial enzymes.

WAMSI projects were carried out by the WA Department of Fisheries, The University of Western Australia, the WA Museum and the Australian Institute of Marine Science. An external partner, the WA Institute of Medical Research, was also involved.


  • Establish a WA Marine Bioresources Library (WAMBL) with inventory of frozen marine samples and georeferenced information which will be a central point for marine specimens curated elsewhere
  • Collate AIMS and WAMSI specimens into WA Museum’s repository
  • Identify valuable compounds from marine biodiversity
  • Enhance marine, microbial, chemical and biomedical sciences
  • Use marine samples in screening programs targeting breast cancer
  • Analyse marine and estuarine bacteria for compounds which can be used to control bacterial infections
  • Encourage the introduction of WA biotechnology legislation to improve biodiscovery research investment and exploration prospects
  • Establish estuarine and oceanic sampling sites in the Perth metropolitan area
  • Establish screening and quantitative assays for the detection of organisms producing chemical compounds
  • Assess the application of QQCs in disease control and biofouling.


  • The WA Marine Bioresources Library (WAMBL) was launched in March 2009.
  • A database was created to track frozen samples in and out of WAMBL.
  • A document to enable researchers access to WAMBL.
  • AIMS Townsville office provided extracts of WA marine species to the WA Museum for biodiscovery research.
  • A total of 93 bacteria-producing compounds were isolated.

Research Articles

Evans-Illidge, E. A., Logan, M., Doyle, J., Fromont, J., Battershill, C. N., Ericson, G., Wolff, C. W., Muirhead, A., Kearns, P., Abdo, D., Kininmonth, S., & Llewellyn, L. (2013). Phylogeny drives large scale patterns in Australian marine bioactivity and provides a new chemical ecology rationale for future biodiscovery. PloS one, 8(9), e73800.

Summerfield, J. (2012). A search for quorum quenching compounds in marine bacteria of the Perth metropolitan area.



Program: WAMSI 2006-2011

Completed: 2011

Location: Perth, Western Australia

Project Leader: Howard Shawcross



Final Report