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EAST BOOTHBAY, Maine — Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences plans to delve into the commercial world of natural cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and nutritional products.
The East Boothbay-based laboratory is partnering with the University of Mississippi on the venture, in part pairing Bigelow’s ocean research expertise with the commercialization work going on at the university’s School of Pharmacy and National Center for Natural Products Research, according to an announcement from Bigelow earlier this week.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for both our institutions,” said Bigelow Laboratory Executive Director Graham Shimmield in a statement. “We’re eager to work together to translate ocean research into discoveries that will benefit society and industry.”
Through the partnership, Bigelow Laboratory and the University of Mississippi will explore using ocean plants and microorganisms to develop new pharmaceuticals and beauty products, as well as prototype infection and cancer treatments.
“Products from the ocean are still a largely unexplored natural resource,” said Larry Walker, director of the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi, in a statement.
“The ocean is a vast, complex, largely unexplored and dominant component of the earth’s biosphere,” Ray Highsmith, executive director of the university’s National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology, said in a statement. “The continuing integration of science and technology advances provides both opportunities and challenges.
“By working together as leaders in these fields, both institutions strengthen their ability to continue making advances in marine biotechnology benefiting society on a global scale, e.g. discovery of new pharmaceuticals,” he continued. “A major component of NIUST is its Ocean Biotechnology Center and Repository that is focused on natural products discovery and ecological drivers of diversity.”
According to the World Health Organization, the global pharmaceuticals market is worth approximately $300 billion per year, and is expected to grow by another $100 billion over the next three years.
According to a joint announcement of the partnership, the institutions believe a variety of programs, workshops, symposiums and post-doctoral fellowships will sprout from the arrangement in addition to the research and development of “innovative” commercial products.
Last month, Bigelow Laboratory celebrated the opening of a new 60,000-square-foot research and education center, funded in part by donations, grants and $4.5 million in voter-approved bond money. Bigelow also has recently started a live-in research and education program in partnership with Colby College.