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Australia invests in marine bioproducts

Seaweed from southern Australia
The Marine Bioproducts Cooperative Research Centre will receive $59 million from the government to further its work in driving high-value products and technologies.

With the world’s third-largest marine area, a growing global interest in marine bioproducts, and the potential for rapid commercial growth, Australia is investing in the sector. The Marine Bioproducts Cooperative Research Centre (MB-CRC)—an initiative conceived and driven by Flinders University—recently received $59 million in federal funding to support its work. The MB-CRC includes 68 Australian and international research, industry and government partners focusing on the marine bioproducts sector; it is headquartered at Flinders University in Adelaide. It is expected that in the next decade, MB-CRC projects may attract more than $270 million in value.

“As the Australian marine bioproducts industry heads for $1 billion turnover a year by 2030, this new national industry-driven research and development collaboration platform is set to position Australia at the cutting-edge of this burgeoning industry,” says MB-CRC Chair John Gunn.

Among the areas of focus are offerings including plant-based proteins, nutraceuticals, omega-3 oils, cosmetics, agrochemicals, and bioplastics. The MB-CRC noted Southern Australia has more than 1,400 species of seaweed, up to 60 percent of which are found only in Southern Australia waters. The MB-CRC will focus on production of new sources of marine biomass such as seaweeds, marine micro-algae and filter feeding animals and the use of advanced manufacturing technologies and processes to produce a suite of novel bioproducts.

The Australian Government’s CRC Program supports industry-led collaborations between industry, researchers, and the community. The focus is on research and development that will have commercial uses. Among the stated goals are improving the competitiveness of Australian industries; using high-quality research to solve industry-identified problems; and help SMEs to take part in collaborative research.

The MB-CRC includes a number of leading nutraceutical industry organisations. Marinova, which is based in Tasmania, Australia, is among the participants. Paul Garrott, CEO and managing director, said the collaboration will help fast-track several significant research projects planned on its Maritech® fucoidan. “We expect enormous commercial opportunities to emerge from expanding our research program, particularly in the areas of immune modulation, viral inhibition, gut & digestive health, anti-cancer, anti-inflammation and anti-ageing,” he said. Marinova recently announced a human clinical trial exploring the immunomodulatory properties of Maritech fucoidan, and has a comprehensive research program underway exploring its impact on prostate cancer prevention, diagnosis, and control.

Another participating organisation is BASF; Leta LaRush, BASF Agricultural Solutions head of marketing, Australia and New Zealand, commented: “The marine environment has a massive number of untested compounds that could be used as the basis of novel bio-products, and joining the MB-CRC allows us to work with researchers and other industry partners to explore this potential.”

On the opportunities ahead, Garrott noted: “The collaborations that will result from the MB-CRC will drive innovative new research projects and further enhance this country’s global reputation. We look forward to working alongside partners who not only share our passion for improved health outcomes but also our vision for an expansive—and sustainable—marine bioproducts sector in Australia. The future opportunities for superior algal-derived products here are huge.”

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