On September 26th the start-up company BioMon Netherlands Center for Genetic Biodiversity Assessment was launched. BioMon wants to realize the transition from traditional methods for biomonitoring to molecular techniques. BioMon offers services and products that make biomonitoring more efficient and cheaper.

Traditional methods for biomonitoring are based on collection, sorting and visual identification of species. These methods are expensive, invasive, time consuming, biased and incomplete. The BioMon method uses environmental DNA (eDNA) to assess the diversity of organisms in ecosystems. The method is based on the fact that animals that live in the environment leave behind DNA, e.g. via their faeces, urine or skin cells. This eDNA-based technique has less bias due to different sampling methods and identification problems. This makes genetic biomonitoring not only more efficient, faster and cheaper, but also more reliable.

Expert partners

BioMon is a collaboration between BaseClear, KWR Water, Naturalis Biodiversity Center and Leiden University. With this, BioMon bundles high-tech laboratories and market knowledge with unique genetic reference databases and leading expertise in the areas of taxonomy, ecology, evolution and genetics. BioMon has the knowledge and expertise to continue to innovate methods of genetic biomonitoring. This combination of scientific and commercial expertise and infrastructure is unique. Ultimately, BioMon wants to become the leading knowledge center for high-quality genetic biomonitoring and assessment in the Netherlands and beyond.

State of the art DNA technology

BioMon will make use of the latest DNA technologies, as BaseClear CEO Bas Reichert points out: “The biomonitoring field could strongly benefit from the current innovations in DNA technologies. But only if applied under high quality conditions, in high-throughput setting and combined with in-depth scientific knowledge of the field. The strength of the BioMon partnership is that it can offer all these aspects.”

Loet Rosenthal, Manager Water Quality and Health at KWR Water, adds: “We believe that monitoring of water quality in general is shifting from traditional methods, such as microscope and plate counts to DNA monitoring. One of the opportunities of DNA monitoring for drinking water purposes is that it offers a wider screening of microorganisms, where traditionally we only look at indicator organisms.”

Backed by innovative research on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning

Naturalis Biodiversity Center is the national research institute on biodiversity. Managing Director Research & Education Maaike Romijn explains the involvement of Naturalis: “We are all about species. With our focus on species and species identification, it is very important to work with the latest technologies. Therefore, we put a lot of effort from our researchers in developing eDNA techniques. The knowledge of Naturalis is not only developed for science. It is also our responsibility to implement new tools in Dutch economy and society.”

Peter van Bodegom is professor Environmental Biology and head of the department of Environmental Biology within the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) of Leiden University. He states through which innovations CML will contribute to BioMon: “Our mission is to develop new tools and concepts for assessing biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. eDNA tools are an important component thereof. For BioMon, CML will develop new tools to quantify eDNA and to link DNA quantities to e.g. the abundance of species, which is important for both rare and invasive species. To achieve this, we link eDNA methods and concepts to our ecological expertise. In addition, we foresee important innovations to derive biodiversity patterns in space and time based on eDNA and links between eDNA and water quality metrics. Through this scientific research, we will continue to facilitate new products and services for BioMon.“

For more information visit www.biomon.nl.

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