Marine Biotechnology Middle East summary

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Overarching science strategies, plans and policies

There appear to be no national biotechnology or marine biotechnology strategies, policies or plans. Israel had an economic development Bio-Plan 2000-2010.

Research funding schemes and programmes

Marine biotechnology seems to be fragmented and buried inside national research plans and programmes.

Research priorities

It is difficult to see what research topics might predominate. Israel is involved in sponge biotechnology, marine bioactives and marine biofuels. Turkey has activities in bioactives and in algal culture for bioenergy and biorefineries. Individual institutions are involved in a number of EU-funded consortia in marine biotechnology. Oman hosts the UNESCO chair in Seafood Biotechnology, at Sultan Qaboos University. There are new opportunities for algal biotechnology and molecular aquaculture in the region, such as Saudi Arabia’s SABA algal biofinery project.

Infrastructures and coordination and support capacities/initiatives

CIESM and INOC represent the most important trans-regional activities; CIESM brings eastern Mediterranean countries together with North African and southern European countries; INOC brings the Middle East into contact with other Muslim nations spread across the world.

National Profiles


Department of Marine Biology, University of Marine Science and Technology , Khorramshahr-IRAN Center for Biotechnology Research (PGBRC), Queshm Island, Iran.


National strategy for biotechnology

Israel adopted a biotechnology economic exploitation strategy Bio-Plan 2000-2010, under the auspices of the Ministry of Industry & Trade. There is no specific biotechnology research strategy, but there are strategic research themes and a National Biotechnology Steering Committee. The Ministry of Science and Technology supports infrastructure, enabling scientific research and research with economic potential, likely to produce new generation products for industrial, agricultural, medical and environmental sectors. Establishment of an infrastructure for biotechnology is one of its stated goals. There is also a joint strategic task force on biotechnology with USA, as part of the US-Israel Science and Technology Commission USISTC, established in 1993.

National strategy for marine biotechnology

None known.


Israel is a member of the European Research Area [1] and qualifies for European funding.

Centres of marine biotechnology research

  • The National Center for Mariculture at Eilat works in fish biotechnology and seaweed farming [2]
  • Ben-Gurion University, the Negev, has worked on microalgal cultivation and production of astaxanthin and was also a member in the EU-funded project GIAVAP with companies Rosetta Genomics and Alga Technologies;
  • The Hebrew University of Jerusalem hosts the Ruppin Academic Center School of Marine Sciences [3];
  • The IOLR (Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute [4]) is a non-profit governmental corporation. One of its three research themes is Mariculture and Marine Biotechnology, involving the development and transfer of know-how for the local mariculture industry and associated biotech industries. IOLR’s NCM, National Center for Mariculture, at Eilat, is involved in cultivation systems for marine organisms, genetic improvement of fish, prevention of maricultural diseases, new products and bioactives from marine sources and technology/knowledge transfer. It has generated two biotechnology startups in are areas of feeds for young fish and products to enhance fish reproduction;
  • The Kinneret Limnological Laboratory works on some microbial aspects of the Sea of Galilee, including toxin production in cyanobacteria [5];
  • The NIO (National Institute of Oceanography, based at Haifa, hosts five research groups: Marine Chemistry, Marine Biology, Marine Biotechnology, Physical Oceanography and Marine Geology & Coastal Processes, active in the eastern Mediterranean, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Dead Sea. Research targets include innovative technologies for marine organism-derived food and biochemicals, medical uses of microalgal bioactives and advanced aquaculture and fish breeding;
  • Technion (Israel Institute of Technology)
  • Tel Aviv University Center for Renewable Energy [6] is working with the NIO on seaweed co-culture in marine fish and shellfish aquaculture, with a view to pollution remediation and harvesting for biorefinery fractionation.
  • The Weizmann Institute has activities in biology, biochemistry, chemistry and marine biotechnology and is a partner in the EU-funded project SUNBIOPATH (increasing algal sunlight-to-biomass conversion) [7].


The Society of Israeli Aquaculture and Marine Biotechnology (SIAMB [8]) promotes research in aquaculture and marine biotechnology and publishes the Israeli Journal of Aquaculture.


The Marine Science Station (University of Jordan-Yarmouk University) is a partner in the EU-funded project ULIXES (using Mediterranean biodiversity for environmental remediation).


The American University of Beirut is a partner in the EU-funded project MAREX (marine bioactives).


The Center of Excellence in Marine Biotechnology Sultan Qaboos University hosts the UNESCO chair in Seafood Biotechnology, with projects in value-added marine-origin products and detection and management of heavy-metal contamination of shellfish [9]. Further information is needed.

Saudi Arabia

The King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology KACST is Saudi Arabia’s science agency and network of state R&D laboratories. It is involved in policy-advising and in enacting R&D support strategies, as well as conducting basic and applied research. Biotechnology and nanotechnology are two of the 11 R&D areas. The Science and Technology National Policy aims to develop Saudi Arabia’s science base and R&D application and innovation in accord with national and religious requirements, and spans the period 2005-2025.

SABA, the Saudi Arabia Biorefinery from Algae project, has been started with funding from KACST, based on a previous small-scale applied R&D project. The first phase is the isolation and investigation of Saudi coastal microalgae to select those with are hyper-producers of algal lipids. The project is a collaboration between King Saud University, KSU’s King Abdulah Institute for Nanotechnology and two Portuguese institutions, CCMAR (Marine Sciences Centre, University of the Algarve, Faro) and IBB (Institute for Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Lisbon) [10].

King Saud University has several algal-oriented activities, including investigation of algal bioactives.

United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain.



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).