New plans arise from SA-China marine biotech forum

Professor Wei Zhang addresses the SA-China Marine Biotechnology Forum

Business leaders from China’s pharmaceutical and seafood companies, as well as institute directors of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and top Chinese universities, converged on Adelaide last week for the inaugural SA-China Marine Biotechnology Forum.

Hosted by Flinders University’s Centre for Marine Bioproducts Development in conjunction with the State Government, the November 16 forum attracted more than 80 delegates for a series of keynote talks and panel discussions on the various opportunities for research and business collaboration in the growing industry of marine biotechnology.

Director of the Centre for Marine Bioproducts Development Professor Wei Zhang, who co-chaired the forum, said the event provided an opportunity to explore marine resources and policy, research and development capacity and industry development in order to identify partnership opportunities between China and Australia, with a highlight on the sister-states of Shandong and South Australia.

“Marine biotechnology is an emerging field of science as researchers turn to the world’s oceans for valuable products and compounds that have applications in a range of sectors, from pharmaceuticals to aquaculture and seafood manufacturing,” Professor Zhang said.

“Marine biotechnology is an area of strategic opportunity for both China and South Australia but there is a need to develop the policies, platforms and tools for collaboration and translation of research outcomes,” he said.

“The forum presented an ideal opportunity to connect researchers and industry in South Australia and China to facilitate these developments.”

As a result of the forum, Professor Zhang said a number of strategic actions are now being planned, including project development meetings with industry in China during Flinders group mission to China, funded through the Australia-China Science and Research Fund, early next year.

“We believe the opportunity is ripe for the development of the marine biotechnology industry to support both fundamental and translational research, and to tap into the synergy that exists between Australia and China,” Professor Zhang said.

“The Australia-China relationship has gone from strength to strength in recent years, highlighted by the recent success of a significant international investment in South Australia.

“This collaboration saw one of China’s largest seaweed bioproducts companies, the Qingdao Gather Great Ocean Group, invest in a $930,000 joint State Government research laboratory and commit to a $21 million industry investment to develop the South Australian seaweed products industry – all in the space of a year following a conference organised by Flinders in 2012.

“It is yet another example of how Flinders University, and specifically the Centre for Marine Bioproducts Development, is leading the way in engaging international investment into both research and business in South Australia.”

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