Marine Biotechnology international regional infrastructures summary

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The EU’s programme of support for the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) has a Science & Technology programme, ACP-ST [1]. In a biofuels programme involving Namibia, Ghana and South Africa, marine algae are being investigated in Namibia [2].


ANZMBN [3] (the Australia-New Zealand Marine Biotechnology Network) was established in 2012 as a communication device between marine biotechnology research groups in Australia and New Zealand and is coordinated by Flinders University Australia and Waikato University New Zealand.


Most marine biotechnology in polar regions is conducted by individual states alone or in ad hoc collaboration. There is no unified science, technology and innovation programme.

The Arctic Council has a working group on sustainable development that seeks to advance opportunities in the Arctic without damaging either biodiversity or the economies, culture and health of indigenous peoples [4]. The Arctic Council’s working group on Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna CAFF has a Marine Ecosystem Monitoring activity and has produced a Monitoring Plan for Arctic Biodiversity [5]. The Marine Steering Group members include Canada, Norway, the USA, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Russia.

Arctic bioprospecting and biotechnology activities have been conducted by Canada, the UK, Russia, the Scandinavian countries, Italy, Republic of Korea and China; other countries including Poland, India and Germany have engaged in biodiscovery using Arctic biota. Norway has the best-developed activities. Some organised collaborative work has been carried out, for example the KAIRA project, on bioremediation of Arctic mine waters, which involved companies and research organisations from Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden, with support from the European Regional Development Fund [6]. The Russian Federation, UNEP and the Global Environmental Facility undertook a pilot study 2005-2007 to establish the use of brown seaweeds and marine microbes as off-shore de-pollutants for on-shore oil and hydrocarbon activities.

The University of the Arctic has established the Northern Research Forum [7], but this does not seem to be working in industrial and marine biotechnology uses and developments of Arctic marine bioresources.

The International Polar Year 2007-2008 had research programmes that stimulated multinational projects involving Arctic and Antarctic environments [8]. The IPY included POMIDIV, the Project on Polar Microbial Diversity, a collaboration between researchers from Japan, Belgium, Canada, the UK and Australia, which was part of a larger project MERGE (Microbiological and ecological responses to global environmental changes in polar regions. PAME, the Polar Aquatic Microbial Project, involved Canada, the USA, Argentina, Norway and the Russian Federation as well as 8 EU Member States. Since then, there have been 2 IPY conferences. Antarctica is subject to international treaty concerning mutuality and prevention of exploitation by individual countries (the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, which came into force in 1961 [9]).The original signatories were Australia, Argentina, Belgium, France, Chile, Japan, Norway, New Zealand, the USSR, the UK, the USA and South Africa. A further 34 countries have acceded to it. It explicitly fosters international scientific collaborative research and preservation/conservation of biodiversity but does not address commercialisation. Antarctic bioprospecting is carried out by many countries, but notably Japan, USA, Spain, UK, China, Poland, France, New Zealand, Chile and India. SCAR (the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research [10]) is part of the International Council for Science. SCAR’s action groups include SCAR-MarBIN, the Antarctic Marine Biodiversity Network [11]. SCAR has also produced a code of conduct for sub-glacial aquatic exploration and research [12]. The Antarctic Biological Prospecting Database contains information on 218 records of patents or commercialisation of Antarctic biodiversity, including use of krill and krill extracts, marine natural products for anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and immunomodulation purposes, and applications of psychrophiles in foods ([13]. The majority of exploitation activity concerns Antarctic krill Euphausia superba, and the countries involved in most of the exploitation, as determined by patent activity, are Japan and USA. A report presented to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting 17 in Kyiv Ukraine 2008 noted over 40 companies involved in Antarctic biodiversity development and commercialisation, and about 20 universities or research institutions from around the world [14].


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations Economic Community’s Blueprint includes biotechnology and marine science as two of its main themes. The Science and Technology programmes [15] supporting this also involve international collaborations such as the ASEAN-Australia Living Coastal Resources project, and 2012 is also the ASEAN-EU year of Science, Technology and Innovation.


The ABO (Asia Biomass Office) Japan hosts the Bio-fuel database for East Asia [16]. The database was set up as a project of the Japan National Energy Foundation’s Cooperation Initiative for Clean Energy and Sustainable Growth and is led by the Philippines. The database includes information on energy policy, biomass availability and energy generation activities for 13 Australasian countries, with 3 more to be added. The focus is mainly on agricultural outputs and waste materials but this resource could become of regional importance for algal biomass energy information.


AUF (the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie) has one or two projects involving aquaculture but could be a stronger force for marine biotechnology across a large part of Africa, the Caribbean and South-East Asia. It has 55 francophone member countries and, by virtue of international academic partnerships, a further 43 collaborating countries [17].


BioEuroLatina (the Association for development of biotechnology in Latin America in cooperation with Europe) is or was a forum for collaboration and techno-economic lobbying [18]. It was established in Madrid in 2005. Its policy and support partners include Spain’s Education and Science Ministry and CSIC, Catalunya’s IRTA agrifood institute, and the European Commission; other partners include industry associations, biotechnology clusters and Banco Santander. It is not clear if this organisation is still active or whether its remit could include marine as well as land-based biotechnology.


CIESM (the Mediterranean Science Commission) was founded in 1908 and formally constituted in 1919, under the leadership of Prince Albert I of Monaco [19]. Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Monaco, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey were founder members. There are now 22 members [20] and the 45th International Research Workshop was held in 2012. Aspects of marine biotechnology have been covered by CIESM in its workshops since 1997, most recently looking at Mediterranean marine extremophiles [21]. Of CIESM’s six committees, C4 works on marine microbiology and biotechnology. There are currently no specific research programmes in marine biotechnology but a recent report examined the role of blue biotechnology in answering a number of specific challenges in the Mediterranean marine ecosystem . Subjects included integration of marine biotechnology and nanotechnology for control of ship ballast water bio-pollution; marine biomolecules for chemistry, health, cosmetics, flavours and fragrances and vaccine adjuvants and stabilisers; new marine biomaterials and polymers.


CoML (the Census on Marine Life) was established by funding from the Albert P Sloan Foundation and spans the decade 2000-2010, involving over 80 countries, 540 expeditions, 2700 researchers, 30 million species-level records, and US$650M in funding support [22]. CoML created the Global Marine Life Database or OBIS (the Ocean Biogeographic Information System) [23]. This links marine species with their oceanographic and ecological data. CoML has 17 projects from Abyssal Plains to Zooplankton and it is affiliated to other projects include WoRMS (the World Register of Marine Species [24]) and the Marine Barcode of Life [25], which are essential tools for checking new isolates against existing records. CoML has contributed almost 100,000 pages on marine species to the Encyclopaedia of Life [26], and has a legacy function as the marine component of GBIF (the Global Biodiversity Information Facility [27]). CoML and OBIS worked with AIMS Australia and the US’s NOAA to create CReefs (the Census of Coral Reef Ecosystems), which has an Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures programme providing real-time information on reef biodiversity [28].


CTI-CFF (the Coral Triangle Initiative on coral reefs, fisheries and food security) is a partnership of the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, which is developing regionally-applicable approaches to biodiscovery, sustainable biodiversity use and equitable benefit-sharing for marine, freshwater and land-based resources in the 6 partner countries [29]. Although primarily concerned about protecting natural resources and responding to climate change, the initiative appears relevant for regional marine biotechnology.


CYTED (the Ibero-American Programme for Science, Technology and Development) was set up in 1984 [30]. It is currently funding a network for development of the use of marine algae, coordinated by the Sociedad ibero-americana de algología aplicada (SI3A) and involving 28 organisations (universities, research centres, companies and an industry association) in 10 countries, including Spain, Portugal; Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador; Costa Rica, Cuba and Mexico [31].

EU-US Task Force on Biotechnology Research

The EU-US Task Force on Biotechnology Research was formed in 1990 by the European Commission and the US Office of Science and Technology [32]. The aim is to create synergies and coordinated efforts in exploiting biotechnology advances. It held a workshop on Marine microorganisms and research issues for biotechnology in 1996 in Brussels and another in collaboration with CIESM in 2008 on the interface between marine genomics and biotechnological applications. Most recently, a workshop on marine genomics and next-generation sequencing was held in Washington USA in 2010. Other workshops have been held on environmental biotechnology that include aspects of microbiology, genomics and bioremediation of relevance to Blue Biotech .


The Economic Commission for Africa was founded by the UN in 1958 to help policy makers and others with an interest in science and technology related business, and enhance S&T policy capacity; most if not all African states are members. It operates the ECA Science and Technology Network ESTNET [33], which also provides information on government ministers and the heads of other significant organisations in each country, via a clickable map [34].


GulfBase provides information about projects carried out in the US States, Cuba and Mexico concerning the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf-Atlantic zone [35]. Although the majority of these projects are ecological, some are oriented towards sustainable use of marine bioresources, including biotechnology projects.


ICBG (the International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups) operates a programme to explore and utilise the world’s biodiversity for medical purposes [36]. The sponsors are a number of US Government bodies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA, the National Institutes of Health NIH, the National Science Foundation NSF and the Department of Agriculture and Energy (USDA and DoE). The Fogarty International Centre is the coordinator of the ICBG [37]. Current and previous projects within the ICBG Program include many with marine-related aspects, such as development of marine biodiversity in Fiji, natural product discovery in Costa Rica, drugs from marine molluscs in the Philippines and bioactives from Jamaican reefs [38].


ICRI (the International Coral Reef Initiative) is an alliance of governments, non-governmental organisations, and international biodiversity and ecology organisations, arising from CBD discussions in 1994 [39]. Although its main purpose is to conserve and restore coral reefs, part of its remit is to encourage sustainable use of coral reefs and related bioresources. Australia and Belize co-chair the ICRI Secretariat for 2012-2013. ICRAN (the ICRI Action Network) is a network of reef scientists and conservation organisations and supports ICRI’s implementation projects and aims [40]. It was set up in 2000 with a grant from the United Nations Foundation and is involved in training, education, capacity-building, information-gathering and develops regional as well as national initiatives [41].


ICSU (the International Council for Science) plans and coordinates international research programmes, some of which have relevance to marine biotechnology, biodiversity and ecology [42]. These include SCAR (Antarctic Research), DIVERSITAS (Biodiversity) and SCOR (Ocean research). There is no specific marine biotechnology programme.


INOC (the Inter-Islamic Science and Technology Network on Oceanography), organizes conferences and coordinates research vessels across Africa, Asia and the Middle East [43]. Members include 19 countries (Algeria, Bangladesh, Cameroun, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mauretania, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey (the current chair) and Turkmenistan, with Northern Cyprus as observer. INOC held an International Symposium on Marine Ecosystems, Natural Products and their Bioactive Metabolites in October 2011, in Bogor, Java.


IODE (the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO), was established 1961 to “enhance marine research, exploitation and development, by facilitating the exchange of oceanographic data and information between participating Member States, and by meeting the needs of users for data and information products” [44]. IODE operates a number of regional Oceanography Data and Information Exchange Networks. IODE and its regional mirror organisations are important as collators and providers of oceanographic information essential to marine biodiscovery, environmental biotechnology and other aspects. IODE runs the OceanExpert network, a directory of scientists and other professionals [45].


NAMSIC (the North African Marine Science Institutes and Centers Network) was established in 2008 and includes institutions in Algeria, Libya, Mauretania, Morocco and Tunisia. It is not clear if it has developed beyond an initial meeting or whether it includes marine biotechnology and bioresources development in its remit.


ODINAFRICA (the Ocean Data and Information Network of Africa) provides fundamental information on projects and people involved in marine and freshwater activities [46]. It hosts AFRIDIR (the African Directory of Marine and Freshwater Professionals [47]). The network includes over 40 marine institutions from 25 countries and is supported by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and the Government of Flanders, Belgium.


The Working Party for Biotechnology of OECD (the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) established a work group in the area of marine biotechnology in 2010 as part of OECD’s biotechnology policies activities [48]. Prime movers in this are the delegates of Canada, Norway, South Korea, Belgium, Switzerland and the OECD’s BIAC (Business and Industry Advisory Committee). The Global Forum in Vancouver in May 2012 moved this area forward and established marine biotechnology development and valorisation as a specific project for forthcoming OECD action [49]. Attendees came from the 34 OECD members as well as non-member and developing countries, and were invited to provide a breadth of research, policy, regulation and industry perspectives.




This draft summary 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).