Forum told of seaweed’s bioproduct potential

weiCommercial viability of high-value macroalgal (seaweed) bioproducts for human health is a step closer with a research collaboration between Flinders University biotechnologists and Australian Kelp Products.

Under the agreement, Flinders researchers will trial new processes developed at the University to create products for the food, nutraceutical and cosmeceutical industries.

These include marine sugars refined from seaweed that can have applications in anti-viral pharmaceuticals, functional cosmetics, and environmentally friendly agricultural pesticides and fertiliser.

The potential of biodiscovery from native Australian biodiversity is a major aspect of the second National Biodiscovery Forum, being held at Flinders University on August 4 and 5 and funded by the Australian Government. The forum’s theme, “From research to reality – translating biodiversity research outcomes through biotechnology”, is exemplified by the Flinders-AKP project

The environmentally sustainable and energy efficient processes employed in the project are part of the biorefinery concept pioneered at Flinders University, and will enable rural industry to move up the value chain for greater economic and social benefit to rural communities.

The proof-of-concept project, led by Professor Wei Zhang (pictured), is part of the broader SA Premiers’ Science and Research Fund (PSRF) Marine Biotechnology Project, which involves South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and Flinders University researchers in the development of a marine biotechnology industry in South Australia.

“Biorefining, through the use of advanced processing technologies, is the missing link in translating bio-resources from the field to commercially viable products that can benefit human health and the environment,” Professor Zhang said.

“This industry partnership will help to demonstrate important technologies that will advance Australia’s research and industrial capabilities in macroalgae biotechnology.”

The enormous scientific and commercial potential of environmental sources of pharmaceuticals will be a focus of the forum: it is estimated that 80 per cent of new drugs, including anti-cancer drugs and antibiotics, are generated from natural resources, including marine species.

Among more than 20 presenters from Australia’s leading research institutions will be Flinders University biotechnologist Professor Chris Franco, who will discuss the growing use of actinomycetes, naturally occurring bacteria with applications that range from boosting disease resistance in agricultural crops to acting as immuno-suppressants in transplant medicine.

A special workshop will be devoted to discussion of the Nagoya Protocol, an international agreement that aims to ensure the sharing of the benefits derived from genetic and biochemical resources.

The forum is of special interest to biodiscovery and biotechnology researchers, those involved in research commercialisation, and science, industry and environmental policy-makers.

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