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The Blue Economy: Exploring Marine Environments to Expand Human Health

marine resources, corals and a fish

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.

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.

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.

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