Marine Biotechnology in Costa Rica

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Costa Rica’s Biodiversity Law was enacted in 1988, leading to the setting-up of CONAGEBIO (the National Commission for Biodiversity Management), bringing together government departments and interest bodies including trade associations. The law also set up access and benefit-sharing (ABS) requirements, including up-front payments of up to 10% from research budgets, when possible, to support conservation, and up to 50% share of royalties.

The Costa Rican Government launched a national ‘Políticas Azules’, Blue Agenda, in November 2012, under the leadership of a newly-created post of Deputy Minister of Water and Seas. The new Minister, Alfio Piva, emphasized the need for a national policy on sustainable development for coastal marine areas, increased surveillance of marine resource extraction and termination of pollution of coasts and gulfs [1].

Costa Rica’s National Biodiversity Institute INBio ([2]) was founded in 1989, one year after the Biodiversity Law was enacted. It is a non-government private organisation. Its Bioprospecting Programme was established in 1991, and marine biodiversity exploration began in 1995. INBio has worked under the Biodiversity Law’s ABS scheme since its foundation and has also been involved in capacity-building and technology transfer activities through collaborations with commercial and academic partners.

Collaborations on marine biodiversity include evaluation of the potential applications of marine sponge bioactives in collaboration with INVEMAR (Colombia) and the Henry Ford Hospital (USA), since 2003; screening of natural products from marine macro- and microorganisms in an ICBG (International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups) project with Harvard Medical School and University of Michigan, targeting CNS, antiparasite and anticancer activities; and novel antimicrobials from unexplored sources, such as crustacean and insect gut flora, with CNB (Centro Nacional de Biotecnología, Spain). INBio has also worked with the US company Verenium on unculturable microorganisms for the development of industrial enzymes, leading to commercialisation of a new green fluorescent marine-based protein, and is a partner in an FP7 EU-funded project, PharmaSea. The Ministry of Foreign Trade, the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency CINDE and the Spanish company PharmaMar announced in October 2012 a funded cooperation agreement between PharmaMar and INBio, exploring Costa Rican marine organisms for new anti-cancer agents [3].

National universities are also involved in marine biodiversity and pollution studies, mainly CIMAR (Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología [4]) at the University of Costa Rica UCR and the National University (UNA). In 2011, UCR started activities in microbial ecology, through a postgraduate course funded by the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation for Development (AECID) [5].

References

  1. http://lafraguacr.org/2012/11/05/gobierno-lanzo-hoy-politicas-azules-y-nuevo-viceministerio-de-agua-y-mares/
  2. http://www.inbio.ac.cr/en/
  3. http://www.cinde.org/en/news/18-news/306-important-biotechnology-research-project-to-fight-cancer-taking-place-in-costa-rica
  4. http://www.cimar.ucr.ac.cr/
  5. http://www.ucr.ac.cr/noticias/2011/07/20/ucr-abre-nueva-linea-de-investigacion-marina/imprimir.html

Disclaimer

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).