PHARMASEA: From Science to Society

15 April 2022

About the project

The PHARMASEA project aims to gain an enhanced scientific knowledge on the distribution of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) and their effects and risks in four European coastal areas, specifically targeting their occurrence, uptake and trophic transfer along regional marine food webs. The consortium will characterize the bioaccumulation/excretion kinetics and ecotoxicological effects from molecular to individual levels to help develop specific risk assessment procedures for APIs.

The PHARMASEA consortium is comprised of 5 research institutions: Polytechnic University of Marche (Italy), University of Heidelberg (Germany), University of Stavanger (Norway), University of A Coruña (Spain) and the Spanish Institute of Oceanography - Spanish National Research Council (Spain).


Getting started

The PHARMASEA kick-off meeting was held virtually in November 2021. The purpose of the kick-off was to introduce all the researchers involved in the project, let them know each other and to discuss the aims of various work packages (WPs). The Project Coordinator, Prof. Francesco Regoli (Polytechnic University of Marche), summarized the general project structure and internal organization: the Steering Committee, Project Manager, International Advisory Board and Leaders/Co-leaders for WPs 1-5 were elected. The discussion was focused on harmonizing the sampling strategy, standardizing analytical methodologies and selecting a common panel of APIs to investigate. Field activities to collect water, sediments and various marine species in different European coastal areas (Adriatic Sea, Western Mediterranean, Atlantic Ocean, North Sea) started in Winter 2021/2022.


The Aquarium Laboratory facility at the Polytechnic University of Marche enables the execution of experiments to investigate the biological effects of environmental pharmaceuticals.

In February 2022, the University of Heidelberg organized the first online coordination meeting of WP2. The main aim was to finalize the selection of a core group of common APIs on which the entire consortium would focus the experimental plans on the onset of adverse outcomes in aquatic species. The main criteria for the selection of core substances were decided by the consortium and included: 1) background knowledge on occurrence in coastal areas, 2) background knowledge on toxicity in non-target aquatic species, 3) protocols available for extraction/detection/quantification. A final group of 13 APIs was selected as core substances, including antidepressants, antiepileptics, cardiovascular drugs, lipid lowering agents and Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs. To date, all partners have started their laboratory experiments to unravel the ecotoxicological potential of the APIs.



PHARMASEA meets Sealogy: the project was presented at The European Blue Economy Show (Sealogy) held in Ferrara, Italy, in November 2021.

Dissemination activities

PHARMASEA's mission includes the communication and connection with private and public stakeholders as well as citizen engagement. For this reason, in the next few weeks, the PHARMASEA website will be online at with all project information, updates and achievements, including a specific survey developed to raise public awareness on environmental pharmaceuticals.

The consortium intensively cooperates with all fruitful initiatives provided by the Aquatic Pollutants Transfer project “AquaticPollutantsTransNet” (, including:

  • preparation of material published in the “Booklet for AquaticPollutants RDI funded project” (September 2021),
  • participation in the Aquatic Pollutants Project Kick-Off virtual meeting with an oral contribution (September 2021),
  • preparation of PHARMASEA poster presented in 3rd Water JPI conference (November Mülheim/Ruhr, Germany),
  • participation in the first AquaticPollutants Core Synergy Forum (March 2022),
  • participation in the first AquaticPollutants Cross Cutting Issue Working Group Meeting on “Harmonization of methods” (April 2022).

To date, PHARMASEA was mentioned by the University of Stavanger in the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) working group on Biological Effects of Contaminants as a reference project for methods to be used in future monitoring programs for Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs).  Sources: ICES. 2021. Working Group on Biological Effects of Contaminants (WGBEC). ICES Scientific Reports. 3:65. 90 pp. The University of Stavanger also presented the challenge of APIs in the aquatic environment using the One Heath perspective at the Science Forum South Africa (SFSA 2021) ( in a virtual debate organized by the Research Council of Norway.

PHARMASEA was presented by the Polytechnic University of Marche at three dissemination events in Italy: SHARPER night (the European night of researchers, September 2021), SostenibilMente (event on Sustainability, November 2021) and Sealogy (The European Blue Economy Show, November 2021). Communication and dissemination materials, including poster and brochures can be downloaded from the PHARMASEA website (!