The opportunity for growth of Marine Biotechnology in Scotland is extensive. With over 1000 miles of coastline and a diverse marine ecosystem, the opportunities for bio-prospecting marine plants and invertebrates, as well as the cultivation of micro algae are significant. Scotland is uniquely placed to lead in the exploitation of valuable products from marine sources and one such success story is highlighted below.
GlycoMar Limited based in Oban, is a specialist biotechnology company discovering and developing new therapeutic products from marine resources.
Via its Exemplar Programme (now known as the IB Accelerator), IBioIC provided grant support to GlycoMar and MicroA (a Norwegian biotechnology company specialising in the production of high value products from microalgae) to fund advanced processing techniques as part of their project investigating the optimal production of target polysaccharide products from microalgae. IBioIC also provided a network of knowledge exchange partners for the project including the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) and the Universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde.
The overall project aimed to optimise production and maximize the value of novel functional ingredients from marine microalgae. MicroA’s patented photobioreactor (chamber using light and CO2 to cultivate algae) offers the potential for sustainable manufacture of new and existing products and tapped into the current business interest in algal culturing systems, high value algal products, and into the need for new technology to deliver the advancements necessary for commercialisation.
The project was designed to deliver the first example of a new high value product from UK marine biotechnology, using microalgae for sustainable IB production. The advances generated by this collaborative team were hoped to minimise production cost and maximise product value.Polysaccharide products have potential as natural and ethical active ingredients for the cosmetic skincare market, in the form of protective skincare, and nutraceutical supplements. Healthcare applications come from the anti-viral properties demonstrated by the products and include the treatment of inflammatory disorders and wound-care.
There were various streams of innovation challenges investigated by the team with positive outcomes. The main challenges were to identify the optimal strain of microalgae and carry out the cultivation process at a pilot scale to indicate commercialisation success.
Having trialled six strains of Prasinococcus capsulatus (a species of green algae) grown at lab scale and the polysaccharide products isolated from each strain, the project revealed that strain 1194 (polysaccharide products of which are under GlycoMar patent) was confirmed as the optimum strain for polysaccharide production and a direct result, makes GlycoMar the first company to successfully commercialise this species.
In identifying strain 1194 as the optimum for polysaccharide production, it has now been successfully continuously cultivated at >200 litre scale demonstrating that the process can be up-scaled for commercialisation.
Achieving a higher production volume means the availability of enough polysaccharide product to investigate in various formulations and forms the basis of the new venture Prasinotech Ltd.
“IBioIC funding has offered GlycoMar & MicroA an opportunity to work with SAMS, University of Strathclyde, and The University of Edinburgh to solve some of the problems we have encountered while scaling up the production of our microalgal cosmetic product. The outcomes of this project are likely to be very important to the commercial viability of the product.”
Charlie Bavington, Managing Director of GlycoMar Ltd.