Marine Biotechnology in Chile

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National strategy for biotechnology

The national strategy for biotechnology development was launched in 2003.

CNIC (the National Council for Innovation for Competitiveness) was set up in 2005 and produced a national strategy, amongst other tasks, which identified cluster development and economy-led science as targets, and the National Innovation Agenda for Competitiveness 2010-2020. The Agenda established Biotechnology, Energy, Environment and Food, agriculture & fisheries as key strategic areas (select Chile at

Biotechnology R&D support is set in the context of national innovation plans, the most recent being the ‘Innovation Plan to 2014 – Chile: Innovation Pole of Latin America’ (2012). The Ministry of Education’s National Commission for Science and Technology Research CONICYT, the national Research Fund for Science and Technology FONDECYT and the Ministry of Economy’s Economic Development Agency CORFO provide funding for biotechnology R&D, innovation and company activities.

National strategy for marine biotechnology

There is no national strategy for marine biotechnology.


FONDEF (Fondo del Fomento al Desarrollo Científico y Tecnológico [1] supports work in algal biofuels. Chile’s economic development agency CORFO (Corporación de Fomento de la Producción [2]) is also involved in some work supporting utilisation of marine bioresources (eg the seaweed project at UCN and the algal Biorefinery project involving the US company BAL).

Centres of marine biotechnology research

These include:

  • CASEB (the Center for Advanced Studies in Ecology & Biodiversity [3]) at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile;
  • CIByB (the Center for Academic Excellence in Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology [4]) at the Universidad de Chile, working on marine organisms, their genes and enzymes as research tools and as sources of industrially-useful molecules such as low-temperature enzymes from Antarctic krill, and metabolic flux in ethanologenic yeasts for seaweed digestion;
  • CIDTA-UCN (the Research and Technological Center in Applied Phycology [5]) at the Universidad Católica del Norte, a purpose-built centre for new macroalgal developments for the food, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics industries, including bioactives from seaweeds. It was funded jointly by CORFO (600M pesos in 2007), UCN and seaweed companies. UCN is also a partner in the EU-funded project MAREX;
  • ICDB (Institute for Cell Dynamics and Biotechnology [6]), Santiago, a partner if the FP7 project PharmaSea, with isolates from Antarctica and the Atacama trench activities in genomic metabolic engineering of all main marine organisms including Salinospora;
  • UANTOF (Universidad de Antofagasta [7]), a partner in the EU-funded projects MAMBA, and MARINE FUNGI [8] coordinated by GEOMAR Germany, aiming to isolate new anticancer drugs from marine fungi;
  • UDEC (Universidad de Concepción [9]) has an active group investigating photosynthetic organisms including microalgae and marine and freshwater diatoms, toxic algae, and bioactives such as pigments. UDEC’s Centro de Biotecnología is highly involved in algal projects, including 'Biotecnología en algas' aimed at local schoolchildren; macro-and microalgal bioenergy (FONDEF provided 565M pesos in 2009-2011)[10]; UDEC’s molecular aquaculture group works on microalgae, investigating pigments and use of algae as aquaculture feeds, applying genetic improvement through mutagenesis and selection and -omics to identify microalgal strains with biotechnology applications [11]; and the Environmental Microbiology group researches biofouling.

Private investment

Bio Architecture Lab, a US company, began to build a seaweed biofuel plant in December 2011 in the Los Lagos area of Chile. The plant will use Macrocystis pyrifera as feedstock. Its Chilean subsidiaries, BALChile and BALBioFuelsChile, are collaborating with the Universidad de Los Lagos, and the ICDB and CiBYB, and are supported by CORFO. BAL already had 3 seaweed farming sites in Chile.



This draft country profile is based on available online information sources and contributions from various country experts and stakeholders. It does not aim nor claim to be complete or final, but should be considered as a dynamic and living information resource that will be elaborated, updated and improved as more information becomes available, including further inputs from experts and stakeholders.

The information on this page is based on information initially compiled by Meredith Lloyd-Evans (BioBridge) as part of the CSA MarineBiotech Project activities (2011-2013).