The Frontiers in Marine Biotechnology Conference, hosted by the Oman Centre for Marine Biotechnology (OCMB) in partnership with Sultan Qaboos University was held at the Grand Hyatt, Muscat on 5 February 2018. The event was held under the patronage of H.E. Dr. Ali bin Saud Al Bimani, the Vice Chancellor of SQU. In addition to two scientific sessions, the conference included round table discussions and other social events to serve as networking hubs for further dialogues.
“The field of marine biotechnology has evolved into a multibillion- dollar industry, one that offers much scope for economic and technology development in Oman. In this regard, pursuing the development of marine biotechnology in Oman, alongside efforts for collaboration and regional awareness, will not only support the country’s diversification objectives, but play a vital role in creating new commercial and employment opportunities for the local workforce” said Prof. Bassam Soussi, Chairman of the Organizing Committee and CEO of OCMB.
Prof. Bassam Soussi delivered the welcome address, followed by a keynote address to give attendees a brief outlook on the new frontiers in marine biotechnology and an expert’s take on the access and use of marine resources in the arena of legislation and ethics.
The utilization of marine biotechnology in the field of medicine and pharmaceuticals has proven successful due to the high diversity exhibited by marine organisms, as opposed to those on land. Deep-sea organisms are used by drug companies and industrial-process engineers to provide genetic material that can be altered for industrial usage. Research within marine biotechnology has furthermore resulted in several important drug discoveries. The first session of the Conference titled Marine Biotechnology – An Ocean of Opportunities and Applications explored the applicability of marine biotechnology in the medical field as experienced speakers ventured beyond the crossroads of marine and aging biology, provided insight on research at the interface between marine and medical biology and take attendees through the drug discovery journey.
Besides the medical field, components, bioactive compounds and genes within marine organisms like bacteria, fungi, viruses, sea plants, shellfish and fish have applications in processing industries like oil and gas, food, feed, and biofuels. The second session of the Conference entitled Biodiscovery and Sustainable Research included seasoned experts uncovering the role of marine bioprospecting and biodiscovery in utilizing marine biodiversity to develop products for various industrial needs, within the framework of a sustainable bio-economy. This was discovered through topics that examine benthic recycling of biogenic silica along depth and salinity gradients in the Baltic Sea, seaweed production systems with high-value applications and biodiversity and chemodiversity of the cultivable fungal community associated to the Mediterranean Marine Sponge (Phorbas Tenacious). The Conference laid the groundwork for establishing the foundation of a sustainable research and business cluster in marine biotechnology in the Sultanate of Oman. The Conference featured a comprehensive program featuring international speakers intent on sharing, updating knowledge and presenting R&D and business incubation success stories from the world of Marine Biotechnology.