| Blue biotechnology and bio-nanotechnology now within reach of practical applications, highlights CIESM
17 November 2010, CIESM News
The CIESM Workshop on 'Marine biotechnology and bio-nanotechnology' brought together 40 leading research and industrial representatives from the marine and maritime sectors to explore commercial perspectives of these rapidly expanding areas of research and development. The meeting was supported by the MARCOM+ EU initiative and was held in Monaco on 11-12 November 2010, at Hotel ‘Le Méridien’.
‘This event was conceived to foster concrete dialogue among sectors with merging interest and propose incentives for science innovations in the application of products derived from marine resources’, said Prof. Frédéric Briand, Director General of CIESM who chaired the two-day event. ‘Our oceans represent a great, still underexplored potential for economic development. We are testing different methods to allow faster, hassle-free transfer of knowledge from early conception to commercial production and so build partnership platforms that will help European and Mediterranean industries take advantage of rapid advances in marine molecular biology basic theory and experimental research’.
The workshop drew business (maritime transport and biomedical sectors) and venture capital sectors’ attention, all interested in helping turn the results of latest research into real-world uses.
‘Over the next few decades, the maritime transport industry is expected to undergo a profound change towards ecologically compatible new options’ said Dr. Mario Dogliani, RINA (Italy), ‘what can better inspire manufacturing of eco-compatible, high performing Ships of Tomorrow than marine life?’ Researchers discussed various, exciting examples of successful lessons offered by nature, i.e. the recent discovery of a new pigment that allows a marine alga to use IR light, which reveals new perspectives towards clean energy. ‘The oceans exhibit a wide range of solutions for each specific requirement’ said Dr. Michail Yakimov, CNR of Messina (Italy), ‘they are even capable of self-cleaning after man-made catastrophic pollution events’. Dr. Yakimov owns many patents related to the use of marine highly specialized bacteria for bioremediation.
Discussions did target as well the vast jellyfish potential for commercial exploitation. ‘We faced this problem years ago as jellyfish products are great seafood alternatives in Eastern Countries’, said Dr. Valentina Bazilevich, Univ. Vladivostok (Russia). Nevertheless, jellyfish processing and utilization techniques are still at the stage of traditional manual processing everywhere. This was further demonstrated in a video of Japanese fishermen collecting giant jellies made by Dr. Kiminori Ushida, RIKEN (Japan), who has optimized methods to extract collagen from the jellies.
‘Oceans may also harbor amazing potential for facing great pharmaceutical challenges such as the search for new adjuvant and immune-enhancing compounds which can help to advancing with vaccines’ said Dr. Immaculada Margarit Y Ros, from Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Division who contributed many ideas to the round table sessions side by side with Dr. Roland Wohlgemuth, of Sigma-Aldrich Co. (Switzerland).
The workshop roundtable sessions highlighted the need to develop new legal tools, or adapt legal instruments that have proven successful elsewhere (in locations such as Japan, Israel, California) to stimulate innovative ventures between academia and business. ‘I was an engineer and then became fascinated by this subject, prone to a rapid development’ said Dr. Tom Dedeurweardere, Univ. Leuven (Belgium), ‘one can hardly imagine such an accelerating (bio-, nano-) technological revolution without adequate support by new policy tools’. The latter sector is of particular importance to CIESM as the Commission actively promotes fair access to marine resources with equitable sharing of benefits derived from commercial products ultimately resulting from blue-biotechnology.
CIESM, the Mediterranean Science Commission, is supported by 23 Member Governments to promote international research in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. The Commission covers a broad spectrum of marine disciplines, relying on a pool of vast human resources: over 4,000 marine scientists from some 550 research institutes in more than 30 countries. On this basis, CIESM produces authoritative, impartial reports on the status and trends of Mediterranean marine systems, together with sharp recommendations on priorities for action, research and development on a large range of sensitive issues concerning the whole Mediterranean Basin.