Brussels, 29 January 2002
Leading European universities and research centres have joined forces to unlock the biotechnology potential of algae in a project funded by a 1.75 million euro grant under the Quality of Life programme of the Fifth Framework programme for research, FP5.
Partners in the project, which include the Pasteur Institute in Paris, the Czech Academy of Sciences and the University of Abertay Dundee, aim to exploit the huge potential of algae, which can have hundreds of applications ranging from testing for poisons in water to being used in health foods. However, research into many strains of algae has been hindered as their fragile structure means they break up when cryogenically frozen, making it hard to conserve stocks for study.
The COBRA (Conservation of a vital European specific and biotechnological resource: micro algae and cyanobacteria) project aims to help Europe benefit from the biotechnology industry based around these organisms by bringing together European algae experts to try to solve the problem.
Dr Erica Benson, who works on plant conservation at the University of Abertay Dundee's school of science and engineering, said: 'Algae are one of the most important groups of organisms on Earth and are increasingly used in the healthcare, environmental and biotechnology industries. In Japan, the harvest of Nori algae is worth 1 billion US dollars alone.' She added that 'the future expansion of Europe's industries is dependent on our ability to preserve and study algae so that we can use them to greater effect.'
The knowledge gained by the COBRA project will be disseminated using a 'virtual library' being designed by the University of Abertay Dundee, which will feature digital images and videos to aid the transfer of knowledge. Dr Benson said that the facility would enable the COBRA scientists to share their expertise on an international basis, explaining that 'work carried out in Dundee can be filmed and viewed by scientists in Portugal and Germany without them ever having to leave the lab. This will not only speed up our research but ensure that all of Europe has access to the best of our knowledge.'
For further information, please contact:
David Marsland University of Abertay Dundee Tel: +44-1382-561-571