The Marine Institute recently hosted a one-day workshop on September 4th, bringing together Irish and international researchers working in the field of Marine Biodiscovery to share their knowledge and identify potential synergies and research links to increase awareness of the national expertise, data and other resources.
"Recognised by the European Commission through H2020 calls which focus on Blue Growth, Marine Bioresources represent an untapped reservoir of biomolecules with applications in diverse sectors like the agri-food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries. The consortium of researchers meeting in Galway highlights the importance of building and maintaining strong partnerships amongst academic researchers, funding agencies and the private sector to deliver in this space, which represents a key component to achieving the socioeconomic benefits outlined in Irelands national strategy – Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth," said Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute in his opening remarks.
The workshop included key Irish researchers from the NUIG, University of Limerick and UC Cork; the private sector, and invited international experts from MATIS Iceland, Fundacion Medina (Spain), and UIT (Norway). Presentations highlighted new research findings in natural product chemistry derived from collections of macroalgae, deep-sea invertebrates, fishery by-products, and marine microorganisms, and demonstrated the antimicrobial and anti-cancer properties of some of these novel compounds in a range of bioactivity tests. The work displayed how Ireland can maximise the commercial potential of Marine Biodiscovery as fundamental to national efforts focused on expanding the marine bioeconomy, while at the same time contributing to the development of this field of research and development in a European context.
Marine biodiscovery looks to the vast diversity of organisms in the marine environment for bioactive compounds that could be commercialized to confront some of our most pressing challenges in human and environmental health. In this light, speakers noted the huge growth potential for Ireland in this space, where marine resources represent a diverse biomass of underexplored value to the State.
"From the nearshore and intertidal zones, where easily accessible micro and macroalgae and a range of invertebrates are available, to underutilized by-products of the commercial fisheries and aquaculture industries, and the extreme deep-sea where cnidarians, sponges and a tremendous diversity of micro-organisms are only relatively recently being discovered, our marine biodiversity offers enticing untapped potential for marine biodiscovery if used sustainably.
The experience that our European colleagues working in marine biodiscovery and in the development of supportive marine biorepositories provided good lessons on how to progress in this area. With the collaborative intent of building Irelands' research capacity in this field and a supportive National Marine Biorepository at the Marine Institute, the biodiscovery workshop showed how recent studies from Irish researchers are benchmarking our activities, and helping to set a course for the future," explained Dr Jeff Fisher, Marine Institute's Director of Marine Environment and Food Safety Services, and co-convener of the workshop with Professor Olivier Thomas of NUI Galway.