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REF NO.: 333

SUBJECT: Scratching the surface of the depths: international biotechnology conference explores uncharted territory
DATE: May 26, 2005

About 500 marine scientists from all over the world will gather in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador this summer to share research and new findings about ocean life and its mysteries.

Like outer space, there is much that remains a mystery about the world’s oceans. Less than two per cent of the organisms found in the sea have been scientifically analyzed. Researchers are now exploring sea life on the molecular scale and in the process have been helping to develop the marine biotechnology industry. The industry may have far reaching applications for fields of health care and nutrition, bio-fuels, environmental services and a whole array of uses to enhance human life.

The 7th International Marine Biotechnology Conference (IMBC) will take place in St. John’s from June 7-12. IMBC 2005 will offer an international forum for the world's leading scientists working at the cutting edge of marine biotechnology. Marine biotechnology is the application of any marine biological, system or process to create products and services. Previous IMBC conferences have been held in many countries that have spearheaded the development of the marine biotechnology industry, including the United States, Norway, Italy, Australia and Japan.

Memorial University is one of the partners of the conference. David King, president and CEO of Memorial University’s GENESIS Group is the chair of the National Organizing Committee; he said the conference provides an excellent opportunity for the private sector and the academic community in Newfoundland and Labrador to develop collaborative research on an international basis. “While the sector in Newfoundland and Labrador is relatively small, it has strengths in many niche areas, and this conference is sure to open up a vast number of opportunities for local businesses,” said Mr. King. “Many of the biotech companies in the province developed as spin-offs from research at Memorial University.”

A/F Protein Canada is one of the marine biotech companies which have used Memorial University expertise. The company has isolated antifreeze proteins from the blood plasma of cold water fish which may have commercial applications in medicine, food technology and even cosmetics. Another company, Aqua Bounty Canada has developed the expertise to genetically transfer desirable traits to fish.

Local companies have utilized the beneficial properties of seaweed in producing nutritional supplements, as well as a kelp-based pet food supplement. Also, several companies have developed nutraceutical products with omega-3 oils based on natural products from marine organisms. The value of shell wastes from the shellfish processing sector is being realized through downstream processing to produce high value biotechnology products.

Memorial is the lead institution for AquaNet, a Network of Centres for Excellence for aquaculture and marine biotechnology. It is a $14.4 million research network involving investigators from 20 universities and colleges across Canada. Memorial is also home to state-of-the-art facilities like the Bonne Bay Marine Station, the Marine Institute and the Ocean Sciences Centre, which allows researchers to undertake cutting edge marine biotechnology research.

Researchers at the IMBC 2005 conference will discuss their findings on aquaculture, new medicines, bio fuels, environmental monitoring for oil spills, composite materials and a whole array of other topics.

The International Marine Biotechnology Conference will be held at the Delta Hotel and Conference Centre, 120 New Gower Streetand in the St. John'sConvention Centre, which is adjacent to the Delta Hotel.

IMBC 2005 is open to registrants only, but media agencies are encouraged to send representatives to IMBC 2005.

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