University Of Hawaii, Berkeley Launch Marine Bioproduct Initiative

The University of Hawaii is the lead university and the University of California, Berkeley, its partner in a new National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Center dedicated to marine bioproducts destined for the chemical, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and life sciences industries. The UH Marine Bioproducts Engineering Center (MarBEC) was selected from more than 160 initial proposals to receive $12.4 million over five years from NSF.

"The world's oceans represent one of our largest untapped biological resources. The diversity of marine life points to a myriad of new bioproducts waiting to be discovered and developed commercially," notes UH President Kenneth P. Mortimer. "A special feature of MarBEC's technology transfer program is its strong linkage to key business, financial and economic development organizations in Hawaii and to national laboratories and industries."

MarBEC has a critical mass of expertise that can be called upon to tackle major barriers or pursue opportunities in a timely fashion. In addition to the talented faculty at UH and Berkeley (see fact sheet), MarBEC will draw on Hawaii's experience and natural advantages in collecting and analyzing marine products and organisms, Mortimer adds. Years of research have created large and unusual collections of varied marine microbes at UH. The University's exceptional marine and ocean research fleet will aid in acquisition of even more biological resources, some from extreme environments, such as the undersea volcano Loihi, located 20 miles off the Big Island of Hawaii and extensively monitored by UH scientists.

"MarBEC's vision is to be a Pacific cornucopia that brings forth 21st century marine biotechnology businesses," says Oskar R. Zaborsky, center director and the HECO Williamson-Matsunaga Fellow in Renewable Energy Engineering Research (FREE) at UH Manoa. "We are in the international Year of the Ocean, and the time has come for a national effort that will bring benefits to H

Contact: Cheryl Ernst
University of Hawaii

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