Natural Products:
From Nature to health and wellbeing


    Our research work, within the scope of CQB's thematic line "Chemistry and Biochemistry for a healthy aging", focuses in the quest of new drug leads from natural products of Portuguese marine organisms and in the discovery of new psychoactive substances marketed as recreational drugs in Portugal, aiming to contribute for a healthy life and an active aging, one of the biggest challenges of contemporary society.

    • Search of new drugs lead in natural products from marine organism of Portugal
    • Ageing related diseases like cancer and neurological disorders constitute a major health problem worldwide. To search for new leads to treat these disorders is in the forefront of drug discovery. The oceans with a myriad of unique microenvironments, many of which still unexploited, have already provided scaffolds for several important drugs, such as AZT and Cytarabine. In fact, in the past years, marine-derived natural products have been playing an increasingly significant role in drug discovery (Martins et al 2014. In our research, we have already isolated several new compounds from marine organism nudibranch, sponges from Portugal and studied the bacterial community of Erylus sponges. In this context, our goal is to identify new drug leads produced by marine invertebrate (mainly sponges, corals and opisthobranchs) and their associated microorganisms to target ageing diseases.

      New drugs

      Doriopsilla Pelseneeri Doriopsilla Pelseneeri

      Biosynthetic Studies in Doriopsilla pelseneeri

    • Search of new psychoactive substance marketed as recreational drugs in Portugal
    • The world of recreational drugs has dramatically changed in recent years with the emergence of new psychoactive substances (NPS) usually sold in smartshops or online stores as legal alternatives to controlled drugs. The NPS include plant based product (e.g. Salvia divitorium and Kraton) and designer drugs (e.g. synthetic cannabinois and synthetic cathinones) often sold in an herbal matrix. The designer drugs are synthetic compounds redrawn after an illicit drug, with the intention of mimicking its psychoactive effect, and thus, to circumvent the drug legislation. The surprising speed at which new synthetic drugs can appear, and the variability of the marketed products' composition, turn unpredictable their effects on consumer's health. Serious effects on Portuguese consumers' health caused by NPS led to their proscription in Portugal since April 2013 (Decreto Lei 54/2013 and Portaria 154/2013). In this context a cooperation protocol was signed (May 2014) between CQB/FCUL, the Scientific Policy Lab of the Portuguese Judiciary Policy (LPC/PJ) and the Toxicology Lab from FFUP in order to identify NPS in drug abuse market in Portugal (Araújo et. al 2014). Since there is no commercial standards for some of these new substances, it's necessary to isolate and/or synthetize them in order to obtain the respective reference material and to evaluate its toxicity.


      NPS A NPS is defined as "a new narcotic or psychotropic drug, in pure form or in preparation, that is not controlled by the United Nations drug conventions (on narcotic drugs 1961 and on psychotropic substances 1971) but which may pose a public health threat comparable to that posed by substances listed in these conventions". The term new does not necessarily refer to a new molecule but to substances the have recently became available into drug abuse market (UNODC and EMCDA).


    • A. M. Araújo, M. J. Valente, M. Carvalho, D. D. Silva, H. Gaspar, F. Carvalho, M. L. Bastos, P. G. Pinho; "Raising awareness of new psychoactive substanves: chemical analysis and in vitro toxicity screening of "legal high" packages contaning synthetic cathinones", Archives Toxicology, 2014.

    • A. Martins, H. Vieira, H. Gaspar, S. Santos; "Marketed Marine Natural Products in the Pharmaceutical and Cosmeceutical Industries: Tips for Success", Marine Drugs, 12 (2), 1066-1101, 2014.

    • A. P. Graça, J. Bondoso, H. Gaspar, M. C. Monteiro, M. de la Cruz, D. Oves-Costales, F. Vicente, O. M. Lage; "Antimicrobial Activity of Heterotrophic Bacterial Communities from the Marine Sponge Erylus discophorus (Astrophorida, Geodiidae)", PLoS ONE, 8, 11, 2013.

    • J. Cruz, H. Gaspar, G. Calado, "Turning the game around: toxicity in a nudibranch-sponge predator-prey association"; Chemoecology, 22, 1, 47-53, 2012.

    • L. Mata, H. Gaspar, R. Santos; "Carbon/Nutrien balance in relation to biomass production and halogenated compounds content in the red alga Asparagopsis taxiformis (Bonnemaisoniaceae), Journal of Applied Phycology, 48, 1, 2012.

    • A. Cutignano, G. Calado, H. Gaspar, G. Cimino, A. Fontana; "Polypropionates from Bulla occidentalis: chemical markers and trophic relationships in cephalaspidean molluscs", Tetrahedron Letters, 52, 4595-4597, 2011.


    Former Members:

    • Ana Lopes (Master project, FCUL, 2014)
      Validation of the Quantification of Mitragynine in Kratom by HPLC-DAD

    • Rudi Lopes (Master project, FCUL, October 2014)
      Validation of the Quantification of Cathinones in psychoactive drugs by 1H qNMR

    • Soraia Bronze (BSc project, FCUL, September 2014)
      Synthesis of the Psychoactive Cathinone MDPBP Present in Legal Drugs

    • Cláudia Afonso (BSc project, FCUL, September 2014)
      Synthesis of the psychoactive substance MDPV and its quantifications in samples marketed in Portugal

    • Miriam Gómez Novo (ERASMUS, FCUL, one year research project, June 2013)
      Identification of psychoactive substances in Legal drugs

    • Elizie do Rosário (BSc project, FCUL, June 2013)
      Marine organisms a source of new bioactive compounds