In 2013 Bigelow Laboratory and the University of Mississippi formed a five-year Strategic Inter-Institutional Partnership Agreement for collaborative research and commercialization initiatives. The collaboration is making progress on identifying new compounds with anti-microbial activity and the potential to treat malaria.
The agreement capitalizes on the strengths of each institution. It outlines a plan for collaborative research and commercialization initiatives in the areas of blue (marine) biotechnology, including marine bioprospecting from Bigelow Laboratory’s National Center for Marine Algae and Microbiota’s (NCMA), algal collection, phamacognosy, medicinal chemistry, and other pharmaceutical sciences. It utilizes technologies that range from single cell genomics, to aquatic optical flow cytometry to bioinformatics, to analytical mass spectroscopy to identify new bioactive compounds.
During its initial phase, the NCMA is providing algal cultures for screening and development potential testing in Dr. Kevin Horn’s lab at Ole Miss. To date, the NCMA has provided 200 strains from its more than 3,000 strains for screening for potential treatments for malaria and possibly some cancers.
“We are delighted to have had some success right out of the box. We’ve had some positive hits for novel compounds using Ole Miss’ nuclear magnetic resonance imaging equipment,” NCMA Director Mike Lomas said. “The next step is to grow these potentially new compounds in large enough quantities that will allow further analysis and testing to be completed.”
The University of Mississippi is involving its School of Pharmacy’s Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Department of Pharmacognosy, and its National Center for Natural Products Research in the initiative. In addition to the expertise of eight different researchers at Bigelow Laboratory, NCMA is offering up its 3,000 algal strains for experimentation and exploration, as well as its 60 years of experience in supporting research and industrial applications using algal products. If the first experiments prove to be the norm, it appears that the goal of the agreement to develop transformative new approaches to marine biomedical research is well on its way to being realized.
Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, an independent not-for-profit research institution on the coast of Maine, conducts research ranging from microbial oceanography to large-scale ocean processes that affect the global environment. Recognized as a leader in Maine’s emerging innovation economy, the laboratory’s research, education, and technology transfer programs are spurring significant economic growth in the state.