A New Tool for Faster Construction of Marine Biotechnology Collaborative Networks

 

Date of publication: 17 May 2021

 

The increasing and rapid development in technologies, infrastructures, computational power, data availability and information flow has enabled rapid scientific advances. These entail transdisciplinary collaborations that maximize sharing of data and knowledge and, consequently, results, and possible technology transfer. However, in emerging scientific fields it is sometimes difficult to provide all necessary expertise within existing collaborative circles. This is especially true for marine biotechnology that directly addresses global societal challenges. This article describes the creation of a platform dedicated to facilitating the formation of short or mid-term collaborative networks in marine biotechnology. This online platform (https://www.ocean4biotech.eu/map/) enables experts (researchers and members of the marine biotechnology community in general) to have the possibility to showcase their expertise with the aim of being integrated into new collaborations/consortia on the one hand, or to use it as a search tool to complement the expertise in planned/running collaborations, on the other. The platform was created within the Ocean4Biotech (European transdisciplinary networking platform for marine biotechnology) Action, funded under the framework of the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST). To build the platform, an inquiry was developed to identify experts in marine biotechnology and its adjunct fields, to define their expertise, to highlight their infrastructures and facilities and to pinpoint the main bottlenecks in this field. The inquiry was open to all experts in the broad field of marine biotechnology, including non-members of the consortium. The inquiry (https://ee.kobotoolbox.org/single/UKVsBNtD) remains open for insertion of additional expertise and the resulting interactive map can be used as a display and search tool for establishing new collaborations.

The Essentials of Marine Biotechnology

 

Date of publication: 16 March 2021

 

Coastal countries have traditionally relied on the existing marine resources (e.g., fishing, food, transport, recreation, and tourism) as well as tried to support new economic endeavors (ocean energy, desalination for water supply, and seabed mining). Modern societies and lifestyle resulted in an increased demand for dietary diversity, better health and well-being, new biomedicines, natural cosmeceuticals, environmental conservation, and sustainable energy sources. These societal needs stimulated the interest of researchers on the diverse and underexplored marine environments as promising and sustainable sources of biomolecules and biomass, and they are addressed by the emerging field of marine (blue) biotechnology. Blue biotechnology provides opportunities for a wide range of initiatives of commercial interest for the pharmaceutical, biomedical, cosmetic, nutraceutical, food, feed, agricultural, and related industries. This article synthesizes the essence, opportunities, responsibilities, and challenges encountered in marine biotechnology and outlines the attainment and valorization of directly derived or bio-inspired products from marine organisms. First, the concept of bioeconomy is introduced. Then, the diversity of marine bioresources including an overview of the most prominent marine organisms and their potential for biotechnological uses are described. This is followed by introducing methodologies for exploration of these resources and the main use case scenarios in energy, food and feed, agronomy, bioremediation and climate change, cosmeceuticals, bio-inspired materials, healthcare, and well-being sectors. The key aspects in the fields of legislation and funding are provided, with the emphasis on the importance of communication and stakeholder engagement at all levels of biotechnology development. Finally, vital overarching concepts, such as the quadruple helix and Responsible Research and Innovation principle are highlighted as important to follow within the marine biotechnology field. The authors of this review are collaborating under the European Commission-funded Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Action Ocean4Biotech – European transdisciplinary networking platform for marine biotechnology and focus the study on the European state of affairs.

Marine Anticancer Agents: An Overview with a Particular Focus on Their Chemical Classes

 

Date of publication: 4 December 2020

 

The marine environment is a rich source of biologically active molecules for the treatment of human diseases, especially cancer. The adaptation to unique environmental conditions led marine organisms to evolve different pathways than their terrestrial counterparts, thus producing unique chemicals with a broad diversity and complexity. So far, more than 36,000 compounds have been isolated from marine micro- and macro-organisms including but not limited to fungi, bacteria, microalgae, macroalgae, sponges, corals, mollusks and tunicates, with hundreds of new marine natural products (MNPs) being discovered every year. Marine-based pharmaceuticals have started to impact modern pharmacology and different anti-cancer drugs derived from marine compounds have been approved for clinical use, such as: cytarabine, vidarabine, nelarabine (prodrug of ara-G), fludarabine phosphate (pro-drug of ara-A), trabectedin, eribulin mesylate, brentuximab vedotin, polatuzumab vedotin, enfortumab vedotin, belantamab mafodotin, plitidepsin, and lurbinectedin. This review focuses on the bioactive molecules derived from the marine environment with anticancer activity, discussing their families, origin, structural features and therapeutic use.

A New Network for the Advancement of Marine Biotechnology in Europe and Beyond

 

Date of publication: 12 May 2020

 

Marine organisms produce a vast diversity of metabolites with biological activities useful for humans, e.g., cytotoxic, antioxidant, anti-microbial, insecticidal, herbicidal, anticancer, pro-osteogenic and pro-regenerative, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-coagulant, cholesterol-lowering, nutritional, photoprotective, horticultural or other beneficial properties. These metabolites could help satisfy the increasing demand for alternative sources of nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, cosmeceuticals, food, feed, and novel bio-based products. In addition, marine biomass itself can serve as the source material for the production of various bulk commodities (e.g., biofuels, bioplastics, biomaterials). The sustainable exploitation of marine bio-resources and the development of biomolecules and polymers are also known as the growing field of marine biotechnology. Up to now, over 35,000 natural products have been characterized from marine organisms, but many more are yet to be uncovered, as the vast diversity of biota in the marine systems remains largely unexplored. Since marine biotechnology is still in its infancy, there is a need to create effective, operational, inclusive, sustainable, transnational and transdisciplinary networks with a serious and ambitious commitment for knowledge transfer, training provision, dissemination of best practices and identification of the emerging technological trends through science communication activities. A collaborative (net)work is today compelling to provide innovative solutions and products that can be commercialized to contribute to the circular bioeconomy. This perspective article highlights the importance of establishing such collaborative frameworks using the example of Ocean4Biotech, an Action within the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) that connects all and any stakeholders with an interest in marine biotechnology in Europe and beyond.