Microbes and Policy
Microorganisms represent an important component of biodiversity, and there is a need to integrate the corresponding data in the future objectives highlighted by RDA and Biodiversity Data Integration interest group. Microbial biotechnology provides innovations for sustainable development, for human and animal health. Global microbial catalogues are available and culture collections offer a variety of services, technologies and bioproducts which are good alternatives to replace the harmful/chemical existing ones in the market. Including biodiversity-based solutions in all development fields will support environment, agriculture, industries, human well-being, health and nutritional food, and medicinal discoveries etc.
Established in 1952, the CMII collection, part from the Pharmaceutical Biotechnologies Department, holds over 400 strains of bacteria, yeasts. Since 1981, CMII has been registered at the World Federation of Culture Collections (id number WFCC 232). In 2014, CMII joined in a pan-European distributed research infrastructure, Microbial Resource Research Infrastructure –MIRRI, as a collaborating party and national node in Romania.
The collection strains are of industrial importance (biohazard groups 1 and 2) as producers of pharmaceuticals and similar ingredients, biochemicals, as well as for veterinary and agrochemical use.
The CMII-ICCF main directions are focusing on bioactive substances and biomaterials synthesis, R&D upstream and downstream processes, mostly with pharmaceutical applications. They are further developed to medicines or similar health products by pharmaceutical technology, analytical and pharmacological characterization studies in the institute (i.e: bacterial xylanase, pullulan, curdlan and xanthan polysaccharides, biodegradable biopoliesters, “Bactosan” – product of veterinary use and “Bactobiogen” - product for human use, both to restore normal intestinal flora, microbial ecological products with biostimulation and biofertilization action, biological products used for the control of pathogenic fungi attacking culture plants, probiotics with microorganisms (for veterinary use), chromiated yeast biomass with hypoglycemiant action, yeast biomass bioproduct enriched in chromium and selenium with antioxidant and antidiabetic action, seleniated yeast biopreparate from Saccharomyces cerevisiae cultures with antioxidant action etc.)
However, there is a need to better promote sharing and application of microbial resource information, standards and management practices in culture collections. Many countries are rich in natural resources, and microbial communities are not an exception, but also can be identified considerable gaps in terms of data management and sharing of these bioresources. Continuously updating with the technical advancements in the field of bioinformatics, synthetic biology, development of microbial resource databases and their management platforms, or microbial infrastructures, represent some of the global challenges.
Therefore, international regulatory measures are very important in this context. The most known agreement under the international law is The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their utilization (ABS), which operates in the context of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and aims to implement the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the utilization of genetic resources. It helps countries to regulate access to biological resources for biodiversity-based innovation and the sharing of resulting benefits in compliance with the ABS regulations. Since 2014, when the protocol entered into force, various tools and mechanisms emerged (i.e. ABS Clearing-House), and aimed to facilitate the implementation of legal measures in the field. In every country are expected laws and regulations, which establish the ABS requirements and procedures, in order to help the organizations, individual researchers, companies and industry to follow the rules for accessing and manipulating the genetic resources according to their national jurisdiction.
As a conclusion, ABS needs to be treated with responsibility by the scientific community, and market companies, due diligence systems need to be encouraged, genetic resources, traditional knowledge and intellectual property need to be protected, and microbial diversity and the corresponding research and development need to be mainstreamed in all fields of activities.
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Activities related to microbial data management are linked with the work of RDA, because microbial diversity represents a valuable resource for biotechnological applications and sustainable development, which involves multidisciplinary research.
The CMII Collection is a national node and some issues related to research data availability in the microbiological field were identified, because many of the strains deposited in national culture collections need to be publically accessed and further harnessed accordingly to the European standards, and particularly those with biotechnological applications. A serious issue is the struggle for maintaining these valuable resources, because the young researchers are often missing from scientific laboratories in Romania. Big infrastructures offer new horizons for the scientific information, as well as a competitive market for innovation.