Novel Strain Discovery Webinar: Market trends, industry perspective, and Nagoya Protocol Considerations

Our recent webinar aimed to facilitate knowledge exchange by industry experts on the market trends that are driving the need for novel strains, challenges and opportunities with strain discovery, ethical sourcing of biodiversity data, AI biodesign and Access and Benefit sharing considerations. The event was moderated by Dr. Radhika Bongoni, Commercial Director at BaseClear, who adeptly guided the discussion among the presenters while challenging their perspectives on a range of topics.

Novel strain & enzyme discovery & biobased solutions for sustainability and alternate foods

As the first presenter, Dr. Astrid Heikema introduced microbial strain discovery and explained that it is a dynamic field leveraging the wealth of microbes available in nature, fueling innovation across multiple sectors. Addressing critical issues and growing opportunities in health, environmental sustainability, food production, and biotechnology, current trends in this field are deeply entrenched in meeting the challenges of today’s world. Advancements in shotgun- and whole-genome sequencing, coupled with bioinformatics tools and ever-expanding databases, are accelerating the process of identifying and characterizing novel microbial strains. However, hurdles remain in isolating difficult-to-culture species due to factors like slow growth, limited abundance, or specific environmental requirements that are difficult to replicate in a laboratory environment.

In response to these challenges, BaseClear draws upon its extensive expertise in microbiology, genomics, and bioinformatics. Conducting thorough literature reviews and database analyses, the company identifies potential sources and optimal culture conditions for microbial strains. Through close collaborations, pilot programs, metagenomics studies, and a cutting-edge laboratory facility, BaseClear ensures effective outcomes. Their offerings include intellectual property-free strains, sequencing data, and comprehensive reports, providing clients with a holistic solution for microbial strain discovery.

Accelerating biotechnology solutions through ethically-sourced global biodiversity data and AI biodesign

Dr. Phoebe Oldach continued by emphasizing that all humanity’s greatest assets come from nature. In the quest for innovation, humanity has long relied on nature – extracting life-saving drugs, revolutionary materials, and eco-friendly enzymes. Yet, despite our reliance on nature’s treasures, we’ve barely scratched the surface, having explored only a minuscule fraction – less than 0.00001% – of the estimated trillion species dwelling on Earth. Basecamp Research is leading a global initiative to change this narrative through Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) partnerships. Their mission: to establish an ethical supply chain that unlocks the untapped genetic diversity of microbes. Employing cutting-edge metagenomic sequencing on a global scale, they are constructing the largest knowledge graph of biodiversity, laying the groundwork for advanced deep-learning models in biology.

At present, their increasing knowledge graph encompasses a staggering 6 billion relationships, complete with comprehensive environmental metadata. This rich dataset has five times greater protein sequence diversity than existing public repositories. Not only does this enable the discovery of commercially relevant proteins, but it also provides a strong foundation for enhanced AI biodesign tools, facilitating everything from protein structure predictions to sequence generation.

Basecamp Research’s approach extends beyond scientific exploration; it’s a concerted effort to foster global collaboration. By mobilizing a network of labs worldwide to delve into local biodiversity via metagenomic sequencing, and ensuring fair benefit-sharing for any resulting commercial endeavours, they aim to accelerate our capacity to learn from nature while incentivizing its preservation.

An industry perspective on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS)

Dr. Markus Wyss followed by discussing benefit sharing, which stands as a cornerstone ambition of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), aiming to ensure fair compensation for the use of genetic resources. Since 2014, the Nagoya Protocol and the associated EU Access and Benefit Sharing Regulation have been in effect, significantly influencing research and innovation practices. However, complying with ABS legislation entails substantial administrative burdens and costs, often overshadowing the benefits shared with provider countries. In response to the limitations of the Nagoya Protocol, CBD parties made a pivotal decision in December 2022. They agreed to establish a multilateral benefit sharing mechanism specifically addressing the use of “Digital Sequence Information.” This mechanism aims to rectify existing shortcomings and streamline benefit sharing in the digital era.

DSM-Firmenich is known as an innovator in nutrition, health, and beauty. Bringing progress to life by combining the essential, the desirable, and the sustainable. Their nutrition, health, and beauty solutions build on years of work: over a century of cutting-edge science, breakthrough innovation, and passionate co-creation, to be precise. With their rich heritage of scientific discovery and research, they are helping millions around the world live life to the full.

The webinar ended with an interactive session where attendees engaged with experts, posing questions and gaining insights into the challenges and opportunities within the dynamic field of novel strain discovery. This event provided a valuable platform for industry stakeholders to stay up-to-date on market dynamics and regulatory landscapes while fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing.

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