The secret benefits of the ocean

Marine biotechnology

You break down dirt at low temperatures, without depending on hot water; a small and huge contribution to national research.

Thursday, July 30, 2009  
La biotecnología azul (Photo:Technopress)

Blue biotechnology is applied to marine and water environments. Even in an early stage of development its applications are promising for aquaculture, sanitary care, cosmetics and food production.

Chile is almost 4,500 km long and has a coastline of similar dimensions. This is equivalent to one tenth of the planet’s circumference, a detail of no small importance. National History Prize winner Mateo Martinic adds that, if you consider its infinite archipelagos, the territory has some 80,000 km of beaches, not counting the 3 million km2 of national marine surface area.

The relationship with the Pacific is naturally a source of enormous wealth. Activities related to fishing, crustaceans, and shellfish produced profits worth US$ 3.353 million (FOB) in 2008, an amount that represents close to 5% of Chile’s total annual exports. The immensity of the Chilean sea often allows discoveries with unsuspected horizons.

One of these is being led by 2004 National Science Prize winner Juan Asenjo, one of the pioneers of biotechnology in the country who sequenced the enzymes of krill, an Antarctic crustacean. The characteristics discovered allow the development of detergents that break down dirt at low temperatures, allowing people to wash without hot water.

After patenting his research in the United States, the founder and director of the University of Chile Excellence in Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology Center has led work aimed at managing the rapid and simplified isolation of modified proteins in the future.

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