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The Blue Economy: Exploring Marine Environments to Expand Human Health

The use of marine resources has been limited for human health over the years despite the fact that 80 percent of plant and animal diversity are in marine environments. With advancing populations and human health dilemmas, however, marine research and biotechnology applications are rapidly expanding. A handful of bold businesses are now making tremendous discoveries along the way.

In total, more than 40,000 compounds have been identified from marine resources. Interestingly, many of these compounds are unique and complex while also exhibiting significant diversity. Biotechnology applications related to these chemicals involve a broad array of fields. Many of these include areas like industrial chemicals, biosensors, and various bioactive materials. And increasingly, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, and other healthcare products utilize marine resources.

marine resources, heikki vuorela quoted
Good health for humans and the marine environment–it has to go both ways.

Specific Biotechnology Applications of Marine Resources in Health

Key fields for biotechnology applications of marine resources have always involved in pharmaceutical areas. Today, products such as antacids, blood thinners, cancer drugs, and other anti-inflammatory therapies contain marine resources. But the scope of where to utilize these marine resources continues to expand. In addition to pharmaceuticals, biotechnology applications are rapidly growing in skin and hair care sectors. Also, the food industry has greatly expanded its biotechnology applications in relation to marine resources.

Marine species are incredibly numerous and diverse. Such organisms include not only fish, mollusks, and algae but also soft corals, sponges, seaweed and more. As science has advanced, marine resources are being utilized in new ways never before imagined. Today, common biotechnology applications related to health involve a much broader area of use. Antibacterial, anti-cancer, analgesic, immunomodulation, and neuroprotective effects are among those actively being explored.

Bold Businesses Leading the Way in Marine Biotechnology Applications in Health

New technologies and innovations are increasingly allowing marine explorations and discoveries in the biotechnology sector. Though many companies have explored marine environments for decades, new scientific methods are paving the way for new businesses. In an effort to provide a snapshot of health biotechnology applications today, we’re highlighting several companies in this field.

  • Marinova – This Australian biotechnology company is located in Tasmania where they can best access brown seaweed. They specialize in fucoidan compounds from this marine plant, which are bioactive polysaccharides. Studies say the purified seaweed extracts are protective of health in several areas. Pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and skin care recognize the biotechnology applications of fucoidan products.
  • New England Biolabs (NEB) – A long-time biotech company since the mid-1970s, NEB is rapidly expanding its research and development using marine resources. They are a global leader in developing enzymes, which a number of diagnostic areas now use. Marine research is now a notable part of their R&D process. Enzyme products now facilitate molecular diagnostics related to genetic testing including epigenetics.
  • Biotech Marine – A subsidiary of SEPPIC, Biotech Marine now makes over 60 products related to skin and hair care. The company is located in the Brèhat Archipelago in Northern France where incredible algal diversity exists. The unique marine environment provides interesting stress to algal varietals resulting in unusual secondary metabolites not found elsewhere.
  • Glycomar – This biotech company in Scotland is popular for producing high-quality polysaccharide and carbohydrate compounds from alginates. The biotechnology applications of Glycomar’s products currently include pharmaceuticals, personal care, and nutrition.
  • Nofima – This well-known research institute based in Norway has been long recognized for expertise regarding fisheries and aquaculture. Today, Nofima is a leader in marine bioprospecting, bioprocessing, and scaling aquaculture solutions for companies.
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The sea offers an expansive list of biological materials that help the medical industry.

Marine Biotechnology Applications in Health Expected to Expand Greatly

At the current time, the FDA has approved seven marine-based drugs. In addition, at least 11 more are in the pipeline for potential approval. Given the incredible diversity and complexity that marine resources provide, this figure will likely increase significantly. Likewise, food, nutrition, skin and hair care, and other health areas will increasingly experience an impact from marine biotechnology applications. This will occur because of new science and technologies being utilized by innovative companies like those described.

While these new areas of exploration support advancement of the blue economy, sustainability remains a concern. Though marine resources are abundant, their preservation and wellbeing must be maintained when exploring new biotechnology applications. New technologies are important here as well, and these might provide insights regarding terrestrial diversity environments as well. Through these efforts, advances in human health using marine resources have great promise.  Also, the growth of the marine biotech industry in healthcare areas looks to be inevitable.

 

For more on the Blue Economy, check out this story on pollution and this one on sustainable growth.

Lone Wolf vs. Team Sport: Is Entrepreneurial Success Tied to Management Team Size?

Conventional logic supports that the most attractive startups should have specific pieces of the puzzle in place. A great idea, a competitive edge, seed funding, and, notably, a strong, core team who’ll drive the startup toward success. These criteria are the well-established checklist of business success factors that most venture capitalists seek when looking to invest. But have each of these been tested and proven beyond doubt as part of successful business strategies? Recent research is now questioning these perspectives. Specifically, it is less clear that having a startup team of founders is actually better than a solo entrepreneur. In fact, the evidence is now suggesting exactly the opposite. Successful business strategies have always touted a team-based mentality. But it just may be a lone wolf at the helm is among the more important keys to entrepreneurial success.

Two hands vs. a team huddle
Among the most important keys to entrepreneurial success is management – but one size does not fit all.

Entrepreneurial Success Factors

An interesting study recently published examined a number of startup companies between 2009 and 2015. Each was launched via crowdfunding sources, and the businesses were assessed for revenues, business survival, and overall performance. Of these companies, 28% were founded by solo entrepreneurs with the remainder founded by teams of various sizes. Much to their surprise, the researchers found that solo entrepreneurs were more than twice as likely to succeed than team startups. Likewise, solo startups generated more revenues and received less funding overall.

The published work comes from two well-respected researchers from two reputable business schools. Jason Greenberg, PhD., represents NYU’s Stern School of Business. Ethan Mollick, PhD., is affiliated with UPenn’s Wharton School of Business. Based on traditional teachings, both expected successful business strategies to include team leadership. But this was not among key business success factors. Instead, solo leaderships for startups clearly demonstrated the much greater potential for business survival and success.

Keys to Entrepreneurial Success – Is the Lone Wolf Startup the Best?

Though the sample was small in the study, the aggregate revenues among the startups totaled over $358 million. This and the quality of the research demands attention as a result. With this in mind, there might be a couple of keys to entrepreneurial success in terms of management size. First, solo entrepreneurs as startup founders are able to make decisions more efficiently than teams and groups. For startups, successful business strategies require agility and speed in decision-making. Unfortunately, this may be hindered when there are several cooks in the kitchen.

Secondly, the other reason solo founders may be preferred involves resource availability and productivity. Startups typically lack an abundance of resources, and making the most of the resources at hand is essential for success. Thus, as one of the most important business success factors, being highly productive with one’s resources is key. Startups with solo founders spend less time resolving conflicts and debating options than those led by teams. This might also explain why solo leadership may be an integral part of successful business strategies for startups.

Are Startups with Team Founders Necessarily a Bad Thing?

While research suggests startups are better off with lone wolf founders, that does not necessarily mean team leadership is bad. Having partners as founders offers many benefits as well. Cofounders provide an opportunity to add complimentary skill sets and competencies that one person may not have. Likewise, teams provide more resources and have greater capabilities in executing a vision and plan. These are also key business success factors for startups.

One additional benefit for team-led startups also involves access to funding. Among all business success factors for startups, access to venture capital is often a priority. It’s no secret that most venture capitalists prefer startups that have a strong, core team to guide its course. While this logic may be supported through habit more than objective evidence, it remains a reality nonetheless. Thus, having team leadership can be considered among the top successful business strategies a startup might need.

A Need for Clarity – Defining Successful Business Strategies for Startups

When it comes to successful business strategies, defining the best success factors can be challenging. Entrepreneurial environments are notably complex, and different markets require different approaches. Certainly, solo founders for startups offer some advantages that appear to be preferred in some settings. But likewise, team leadership also offers some benefits for success. Venture capitalists should, therefore, take heed and expand their criteria in determining what best predicts future startup business success. Until additional research better clarifies the issue, shying away from the lone wolf startup might be a huge mistake.