Solutions from the sea – NUI Galway gets €0.5m in EU funding
30 May 2013
A new generation of ‘green’ biomaterials is to be sourced from the Atlantic Ocean by a team of scientists across Europe. As part of the project, two research groups based at the National University of Ireland Galway have received funding of over €0.5 million to investigate the potential use of such marine materials for applications in the biomedical industry.
The university’s Irish Seaweed Research Group (ISRG) and the Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials (NFB) will work on the two-year project, which has a total of ten partners from France, Portugal, Spain, theNUI UK and Ireland.
The primary focus of the project is to research and develop new products and applications with particular emphasis on the development of biomaterials for human tissue engineering, drug delivery applications, dental and bone fillers, and wound dressings.
Galway is a global manufacturing and research hub for medical devices and its coastal location has given rise to the highest concentration of marine scientists of any area in Ireland. By bringing together two of the most widely recognised research fields in the region, the project has the potential to lead the way in the discovery of the next generation of ‘green’ biomaterials.
The project, entitled ‘MARMED: Development of innovating biomedical products from marine resources valorisation’, is funded to the tune of €2,066,765 in total, under the Atlantic Area Transnational Programme 2007-2013. Led by the University of Minho in Portugal, it aims to find economic and societal value from marine resources, marine sub-products and by-products. Behind this initiative is the drive for the sustainable use of natural resources, as well as the growing realisation that the oceans possess a wealth of opportunities for marine-derived medicines.
Marmed provides a platform for European partners to collaborate on research that will lead to development of products for biomedical/human health purposes. Marine biological resource management not performed in a sustainable manner enables sub-products and residues with high potential for valorisation to be discarded.
In particular, sub-products like fish bones can yield calcium phosphates, collagen and morphogenetic proteins. From crustacean and mollusc endoskeletons come calcium phosphates and chitin/chitosan. From residues of macroalgae and algal blooms, polysaccharides can be extracted. Once extracted and purified, these biopolymers and ceramics can find application in different biomedical areas, such as biomaterials for human tissue regeneration or dietary supplementation. This type of valorisation is quite innovative and with a high potential of industrial application.
Although many of these compounds have biomedical efficiency, only a few have reached clinical trials and the pharmaceutical market. The universities and institutes involved in this project will work closely with industrial partners involved in the marine-related and biomedical device sectors to demonstrate proof-of-concept and the added-value and high potential of marine-origin biopolymers and ceramics in biomedical applications.
The Marmed project has three core strands: the first aims to establish the current marine resource availability in the Atlantic area (by-products/sub-products). The second generates, among the consortium, application ideas for the marine resources of interest with a focus on utilisation in the biomedical and human health field. The third, through industrial collaboration, will evaluate the market potential of the applications to be developed or studied under the scope of the MARMED project
Prof Abhay Pandit is director of the NFB at the National University of Ireland Galway, and this EU grant brings to seven the number of EU projects with which the Science Foundation Ireland-funded group is involved.
“Marine materials have only barely been explored and their use in a biomedical context is quite an innovative approach,” he explained. “There are tremendous possibilities around, for example, marine-derived bone proteins as an alternative to genetically engineered technologies. Meanwhile, marine collagen has huge potential for use in biomedical products such as skin substitutes.”
According to Prof Pandit, the researchers also want to explore the use of new polysaccharides extracted from green algae “for possible use in intervertebral disc repair and ceramics such as hydroxyapatite produced from fish bones, which could be used in bone repair”.
The Irish Seaweed Research Group and NFB will focus on the technical development of marine biomaterials for potential added value and biomedical applications, following the identification of suitable compounds and sub-products. This phase of the work will give insight into how marine resources can be turned into added-value biomedical products.
Through the success of previous EU projects carried out by the ISRG and NFB and the involvement of industry partners, the utilisation avenues of under-exploited marine resources can be explored. “The MARMED project provides a platform for European partners to collaborate on research that will lead to the rapid development of new products for human health,” concluded Dr Richard Walsh of the ISRG, which is part of the Ryan Institute at the National University of Ireland Galway.http://www.engineersjournal.ie/2013/05/30/solutions-from-the-sea-nui-galway-gets-e0-5m-in-eu-funding/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Beach-1024x680.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Beach-300x300.jpgBiobiomedical,marine,NUI Galway