Marine Biotechnology international summary

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Summary

A recent market research report estimates that the global market for products resulting from marine biotechnology might exceed US$ 4B by 2015, of which marine biomaterials (including seaweed hydrocolloids) could contribute over 40%, and marine bioactives for healthcare would be the most important and fastest-growing sector. The size of this, even if it is an over-estimate, suggests that the harnessing of marine bioresources through biotechnology and development of products and services should be a serious target for any country with significant aquatic biodiversity. It is of interest that the report noted that very few countries have national marine biotechnology R&D programmes; it also identified the USA as the world leader in marine biotechnology.

That marine bioresources can give rise to specific molecules of tremendous use or potential for human medicine is undeniable. There are now 4 approved products, 13 in clinical trials and a large number in pre- clinical investigation , coming from a wide range of organisms from many different parts of the world. The route to market involves isolation and chemical characterisation, followed by synthesis or semi-synthesis of the molecule or an active analogue. Prialt® ziconotide, a painkiller originally isolated from a Pacific (Philippines) cone snail, Yondelis® trabectidin, an anti-cancer molecule from a Caribbean tunicate Ecteinascidia turbinata, and anabaseine (DMXBA) from the ribbon worm Paranemertes peregrina, from the Pacific Rim, are examples.

This CSA MarineBiotech report brings together as much information as can initially be found on national strategies for biotechnology and marine biotechnology, programmes and major research centres. It is intended to be a high-level overview and analysis of research, investments, research programmes and trends. It is also a ‘living document’, through the medium of the WIKI-pages of the MarineBiotech website to be corrected, expanded and brought up to date by interested parties who have access to direct knowledge and accurate information. It is also intended to raise interest in transnational collaborative possibilities between European countries and others.

The countries that are the focus of this report include those that are relatively highly active, such as USA, Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, Republic of Korea and Australia, as well as others where activities are growing from a smaller base (Thailand, India, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, South Africa) and where there are signs that marine biotechnology is increasing in importance as a research priority. Multinational regional approaches and infrastructures are also included where appropriate. It is notable that the major international effort, the Census of Marine Life (CoML), involved 2700 researchers, about 31% from Europe, 44% from USA and Canada, and 25% from the rest of the world, notably Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, South Africa, India, Indonesia and Brazil.

Perhaps the most important strategic move is that OECD is now involved in marine biotechnology considerations. OECD has established a steering group to develop a strategy for marine biotechnology, initiated by Norway in 2010 and now including Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Korea, Israel, Mexico, USA, the EU and the OECD’s BIAC (Business and Industry Advisory Committee). In addition, OECD maintains an interest in facilitating the international networking of Biological Resource Centres, to ensure that collections are properly managed.

In summary, the work so far has shown the following:

Overarching science strategies, plans and policies

In Africa, Mozambique has a coherent biotechnology plan. Otherwise, only Nigeria, South Africa and Tunisia seem to have any elements of biotechnology or marine sciences plans, policies or strategies. Kenya launched a national bioprospecting strategy in 2011 in response to biopiracy.

In Central & South America, Brazil and Chile have national biotechnology plans. Chile also has a national Innovation Plan (2012-2014). Argentina’s Law 26270 focuses on building the economy through facilitating biotechnology enterprise. Mexico has PECiTI (the national Science, Technology & Innovation programme), and a National Development Plan 2007-2012. No country has a marine biotechnology strategy, but Brazil carries out strategic R&D through a specific programme BIOMAR, established in 2005, and Costa Rica has an institute to manage the exploration and use of biodiversity, INBio, established in 1989.

In North America, Canada published its first National biotechnology strategy in 1983 and renewed it in 1998. Genome Canada was founded in 2000 as ‘a catalyst for developing and applying genomic sciences that create economic wealth and social benefit ‘. The USA announced in 2011 a National Bioeconomy Blueprint. Neither country has a specific marine biotechnology strategy, plan or policy. The Canadian marine strategy of 2002 and Healthy Oceans Initiative of 2007 contain some elements that might be relevant but the overall focus is on sustainability and integrated approaches to oceans.

In Asia, four of the most important players in marine biotechnology can be found, China, India, South Korea and Japan. Taiwan, Korea, Japan and India have specific national biotechnology strategies; in China, biotechnology is an integral part of the Five Year Plans. Individual Indian states have also established biotechnology policies (Gujarat for example). There are no separate national marine biotechnology strategies or policies except in Korea, where there is Blue-Bio 2016. In other major countries, marine biotechnology is mentioned as a specific topic in strategic plans or programmes (such as China, Japan’s BioStrategy 2002 or India’s 11th Five Year Plan). India also has a National Policy on Biofuels (2009) to which marine biotechnology is contributing. Korea has a plethora of strategies, policies and plans and marine biotechnology is an explicit part of the Biotechnology Fostering Policy.

In the Middle East, there appear to be no national biotechnology or marine biotechnology strategies, policies or plans. Israel had an economic development Bio-Plan 2000-2010.

In South-East Asia and the Indian Ocean Islands, Thailand and Vietnam stand out as the countries most focused on marine biotechnology. Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Thailand have national biotechnology strategies, plans or policies. Only The Philippines, with NARRDS, the National Aquatic Resources Research & Development System, and Vietnam, with a recently-issued letter from the President of VAST (Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology) explicitly calling for increased efforts in marine biotechnology, have anything resembling a marine biotechnology policy or strategy.

In Australia-Pacific, both Australia and New Zealand have biotechnology strategies but neither has a specific marine biotechnology strategy. In New Zealand, the Biotechnology strategy includes marine biotechnology within environment/industry, and MoRST (Ministry of Research Science and Technology) produced a roadmap for biotechnology research in 2007, which included marine biotechnology as a specific component. In Australia, enhancement of access to marine resources and marine science are mentioned in the National Biotechnology Strategy (2000-2008) and its successor ‘Powering Ideas – An innovation agenda for the 21st century’, but marine biotechnology is not explicitly included. Australian States including Queensland and Tasmania do however include marine biotechnology as part of their research and economic development strategies. Marine Innovation South Australia includes and Aquaculture, Biotechnology and Biodiscovery Science group. Of the Pacific Islands, Guam and Fiji seem the most active in marine biotechnology. There are no obvious national strategies, but Fiji was an early mover in biodiversity (Access and Benefit-Sharing) policy development.

Research funding schemes and programmes

In Africa, Tunisia seems most forward in creating a programme that utilizes the relevant expertise of national research institutes.

In Central & South America, national schemes and programmes, with the exception of Brazil’s BIOMAR, are generic, though many of them do support marine biotechnology. BIOMAR began road-mapping marine biotechnology in Brazil in 2007. It is a good case study for national marine biotechnology support programmes. Marine biodiscovery is recognized in Costa Rica’s Bioprospecting programme (1991).

In North America, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has a strong programme in aquatic biotechnology and genomics and the National Research Council supports the Institute for Marine Biosciences in Nova Scotia. Genome Canada, through its regional activity in British Columbia, is a partner in the international Salmon Genome project and has other fisheries and environmental activities that are relevant for marine biotechnology. Québec supports the Marine Biotechnology Research Centre in Rimouski, which is an industry-facing development organization. In the USA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of Energy and Department of Defense support aspects of marine biotechnology, the last 2 focusing strongly on algal biofuels. NSF was the main supporter of the enormous Microbial Observatories programme, and NOAA has 3 relevant programmes, national Sea Grant, Ocean Explorer and National Undersea Research.

In Asia, marine biotechnology is a specific part of China’s National Hi-Tech R&D Programme ‘863’. The Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese government support Key Laboratories, some of which are focused on topics relevant to marine biotechnology. In India, DBT, the Department of Biotechnology, has a Task Force on Aquaculture and Marine Biotechnology, set up in 1998, which has funded over 200 projects since then. Japan was a leader in the area, establishing the Marine Biotechnology Institute in 1990, a public-private partnership, the lasting legacy of which appears to be only the national culture collection. Korea’s Marine Bio 21 project (2004) has generated two genomics programmes, and the National S&T Plan 2008-2012 has Core technologies for New Industry: Marine Organism Conservation and Marine Biotechnology as one of its 7 investment areas.

In the Middle East, marine biotechnology seems to be fragmented and buried inside national research plans and programmes.

In South-East Asia and the Indian Ocean Islands, there is evidence of strong investment in biotechnology, but less so in marine biotechnology. The Ninth Malaysia Plan 2006-2010 allocated almost US$550M to industry development through biotechnology and Thailand’s National Biotechnology Policy Framework (2004-2009) allocated about US$125M to biotechnology. There are few specific programmes involving marine biotechnology; one is the PharmaSeas Drug Discovery program, funded by the Philippines under NARRDS (National Aquatic Resources Research & Development System). Indian Ocean islands are sometimes involved in marine biotechnology activities, notably Madagascar, but more information is needed.

In Australia-Pacific, Australia’s ‘Super Science Initiative’ plans to put A$1.1B into innovation science 2009-2013, approximately 45% into biotechnology, including marine biology in one of the ‘Future Industries’ themes. Australia already supports a world-class basic and applied research institute, AIMS (Australian Institute of Marine Sciences). Australia has also established the Industrial Transformation Research Program in 2011, with $236M funding, though it isn’t yet clear how much of this might be applied to marine biotechnology.

Research priorities

In Africa, biofuels and marine bioactives are the main research priorities. Aquaculture is important but there is not so much evidence of biotechnology applications as part of national programmes (see though Nigeria).

In Central & South America, the focus is very broad, including biodiscovery, bioenergy, bioremediation and biofouling. In Chile, there is also activity in molecular aquaculture, because of the importance of this sector to the economy. There are numerous universities and research centres involved in marine biotechnology in Brazil, Chile and Mexico.

In North America, although there is effort on biodiscovery and 0ther aspects of marine biotechnology, including molecular aquaculture in Canada (salmon) and Atlantic Coast of USA (shellfish), the picture is heavily skewed by Dept of Energy and Dept of Defense support for algal biofuels, and private investment in algal biorefineries. There are individual units and centres with a strong marine biotechnology focus (Harbor Branch, Scripps, Bigelow and Maryland spring to mind). Most recently, the state of North Carolina has established a Marine Biotechnology Center of Innovation as part of its economic development plan.

In Asia, there is also a broad range of topics across the countries. There is an increasing focus on biofuels in India but elsewhere, biodiscovery for human pharmaceuticals, food, feed and cosmetics is predominant. The Korean Institute of Ocean Science and Technology is a world-leader in marine biosciences and biotechnology. There are numerous institutes, research centres and universities in China, India and Korea substantially involved in marine biotechnology but they do need more complete profiling to understand how competitive they are with European activities and whether there are broader opportunities for international collaboration.

In the Middle East, 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 probably new opportunities for algal biotechnology and molecular aquaculture in the region.

In South-East Asia and the Indian Ocean Islands, much of the focus seems to be on exploitation of natural biodiversity for novel bioactives. In Vietnam and Thailand, there is however significant molecular aquaculture, especially for crustacea (shrimps, prawns). Regionally-important research resources include University of Diponegoro Indonesia, the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute and UP-Visayas, Thailand’s National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC), the Center of Excellence for Marine Biotechnology at Chulalongkorn University Bangkok, and several institutes within the VAST network in Vietnam.

In Australia-Pacific, the New Zealand Ministry of Research, Science & Technology’s roadmap for biotechnology research recognises molecular aquaculture and marine bioactives as two of New Zealand’s research strengths.

Infrastructures and coordination and support capacities/initiatives

In Africa, the Mediterranean Science Commission (CIESM), the Inter-Islamic Science and Technology Network on Oceanography (INOC) and the Ocean Data and Information Network of Africa are three notable integrational initiatives with involvement in marine biosciences.

In Central & South America, the best examples of academic infrastructure and support are to be found in Brazil, the government-funded networks RedeAlgas (macroalgae), Rede interinstitucional de algas bentônicas (microalgae) and Rede Brasileira de Tecnologia de Biodiesel (biodiesel).

In North America, there are some regional initiatives (ArcticNet in Canada, GulfBase in the USA for example) but the most important US-stimulated contribution to international support for marine biotechnology has been the Census of Marine Life (CoML).

In Asia, linkages are mainly attained through organised structures such as the key laboratories of China. In India, the Department of Biotechnology created a national Algal Biofuel Network in 2008.

In the Middle East, 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.

In South-East Asia and the Indian Ocean Islands, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) may assist in trans-regional activities but this is not clear. The Indonesian Dept of Marine Affairs and Fisheries established a scientific forum for Indonesian Marine Biopharmaceuticals in 2005, and in Vietnam the Ho Chi Minh City Biotechnology Park was started in 2010, with the intention of housing biotechnology start-ups in the aquaculture, seafood and environmental sectors.

In Australia-Pacific, the Australian Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) provide translational services for industry and several of these have taken part in marine biotechnology-orientated work, in seafood genetics, Antarctic microbiology and bioremediation.

International activities

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, with considerable input from Canada, Norway, South Korea, Belgium, Switzerland and the OECD’s BIAC (Business and Industry Advisory Committee). This work has taken place within the context of OECD’s report ‘The Bioeconomy to 2030) . The OECD marine biotechnology Global Forum in Vancouver in May 2012 moved this area forward and established marine biotechnology development and valorization as a specific project for forthcoming OECD action. The Forum report is about to be published (end 2012-beginning 2013).

The EU is a strong actor in promoting and supporting international links. The review of 59 marine-related projects supported by EU funding, of which 16 are more closely biotechnology-associated, reveals that 14 of those with explicit marine biotechnology or genomics involvement include 26 different research institutions or companies in 18 different countries as consortium partners . In addition, the EU’s Joint Research Centre maintains a useful web-site listing research structures and policies around the world [1]. Many of the countries with potential for collaboration with EU institutions and companies in marine biotechnology, or in which the EU could have a favourable impact by capacity-building, are ICPC (International Cooperation Partner Countries) [2]. Strategic recommendations for Horizon 2020 projects involving marine biotechnology might include nominations of appropriate countries as ICPCs for specific calls.

The EU-US Task Force on Biotechnology research has had several conferences on marine biotechnology topics, one of those in collaboration with CIESM.

Meeting the innovation challenge In addition to funded projects and programmes that tackle specific areas of marine biotechnology, clusters and networks are recognised as tools to enhance the knowledge transfer that can lead to more efficient innovation. Examples include the joint EU-US Task Force on Biotechnology, the Mediterranean Science Commission CIESM or the Brazilian network RedeAlgas.

Innovation appears to be effected by a four-fold mechanism in the field of marine biotechnology. One is the drive to exploit a country’s biodiversity sustainably, another is to join the trend for algal bioenergy and a third is to regard the marine sector as one that can be used as part of a general improvement in biotechnology capability in a country. The fourth, enhancement of food production from the seas through aquaculture, is well-established in those countries which have strong export markets for farmed fish and shellfish and is beginning to become more important in other countries where raising the general nutritional level of the population is important.

The CoML showed the power of public-private partnerships for moving marine biosciences forward. Without the intensive financial support of the Alfred P Sloan Foundation, this US$650M 10-year project would not have got off the ground. The involvement of OECD’s Business and Industry Advisory Committee in the marine biotechnology initiative signals a serious intent in marine bioexploration for sustainable economic growth. Slow emergence of interest in aspects of marine biotechnology as economic drivers can be seen elsewhere, with new institutes (Marine and Microbial Biotechnology in India), industry-facing activities (CRCs in Australia, the Biotechnology Research & Development Center in Quebec, the Marine Biotechnology Center of Innovation North Carolina, the Marine Biological Products Industry Strategic Alliance announced in China in 2012, Indian State Government marine biotechnology parks) or translational networks (RedeAlgas in Brazil, the Algal Biofuels network in India).

Specific trends in strategy and policy are more difficult to bring into focus, and would be more suitable for updating via the envisaged MarineBiotech InfoPages .

Trends

The CoML showed the power of public-private partnerships for moving marine biosciences forward. Without the intensive financial support of the Alfred P Sloan Foundation, this US$650M 10-year project would not have got off the ground. The involvement of OECD’s Business and Industry Advisory Committee in the marine biotechnology initiative signals a serious intent in marine bioexploration for sustainable economic growth.

Specific trends in strategy and policy are more difficult to bring into focus, and would be more suitable for updating via the envisaged MarineBiotech InfoPages .

References

  1. http://erawatch.jrc.ec.europa.eu/erawatch/opencms/information/country_pages/
  2. ftp://ftp.cordis.europa.eu/pub/fp7/docs/wp/cooperation/cooperation-general-annexes201101_en.pdf

Disclaimer

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).