Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


Screening natural products for cosmetics and biopesticides

Project Acronym: AGROCOS

Title of project: From biodiversity to chemodiversity: novel plant produced compounds with agrochemical and cosmetic interest

Research area: Prospecting for novel plant-produced compounds

Contract No: 245336

EU Contribution: 2 902 633 EURO

Start date: 01-04-2010

Duration: 48 Months


This project will identify small plant-derived molecules with potential for use as new cosmetic and agrochemical agents and take these to the stage of development where their commercial potential can be shown. These compounds will be derived from plants originating from major biodiversity hotspots in Europe, Africa, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region. The starting point of the project will be a diverse natural product library of 500 compounds taken from the existing repositories of three project partners. These compounds will be screened in assays for agrochemical (antifungal, herbicidal, insecticidal) and cosmetic properties (UV-protection, anti-aging, anti-hyperpigmentation) in order to identify promising structures (scaffolds). The results will be used to define a diverse collection of plants that contain structural variants and derivatives of these scaffolds. A liquid library of 3600 extracts will be generated and screened using stringent prioritization and profiling procedures that will generate 300 compounds in focused sub-libraries. Evaluation of these sub-libraries will lead to 30 compounds that will undergo further testing resulting in identification of five compounds as development candidates for novel agrochemical and/or cosmetic use with new or improved properties compared to existing active ingredients.

Expected Impact

Prospecting biological diversity for the production of commercially valuable compounds is one of the main lines of the current EU research programme. It is estimated that only 10% of the existing 400,000 higher plant (and even lower ratio of fungi and invertebrates) species have so far been chemically characterised. Hence, research is needed to assess the diversity of bioactive compounds (e.g. carbohydrates, lipids, peptides; proteins or secondary metabolites) from terrestrial organisms (primarily plants but also fungi and invertebrates), the underlying metabolic pathways and their genetic control so as to develop novel uses for various plant species, whose economic role so far may have been limited. This project will have a significant impact on these objectives reflecting the size of the initial product library, providing technical data on a wide range of natural products. The data produced and methods developed for assessing the potential value of the various compounds will also be important in reducing efforts needed for others to generate the basis data needed to recognise possible development products.

Expected Results

It is expected that this project will identify five compounds that will qualify for further development, either for cosmetic or for agrochemical, by the industrial partners in the consortium who will carry out their further commercial development. These will be obtained from a structurally diverse, small-molecule, natural product library encompassing pure compounds from plants of geographically distant and diverse regions that will serve as a readily available source of diverse basic chemical structures (scaffolds) of potential interest for the chosen cosmetic and agricultural applications. These will be selected on the basis of chemo-diversity and chemotaxonomy in an efficient manner ensuring traceability through use of a high degree of standardization, automation and miniaturization in the generation and management of libraries, screening and based on the development of a common platform for management and use of sample related spectral data and metadata. The project will establish relevant in vitro assays for major areas of use in cosmetics and as agrochemicals and establish stringent prioritization mechanisms for progressing samples through accelerated purification of active compounds based on optimised isolation procedures. An additional outcome of the project will be an extract library of considerable size and chemo-diversity including associated spectroscopic information and metadata, as well as a series of compound sub-libraries covering selected natural product scaffolds that can be used for future screening for other types of biological properties.

Website of project:


Coordinator: Coordinator Skaltsounis Leandros,

Organisation National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece,


Universitaet Basel, Switzerland,

Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France,

Universidad de Panama, Panama,

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, South Africa,

BASF SE, Germany,

Korres S.A. Natural Products, Greece,

Bruker Biospin Gmbh, Germany,

National Center For Scientific Research "Demokritos", Greece,