Bigelow Laboratory and University of Mississippi Form Strategic Partnership

Agreement creates collaborative initiative for marine natural products research

EAST BOOTHBAY, Maine and OXFORD, Miss. – Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and the University of Mississippi have entered into a Strategic Inter-Institutional Partnership Agreement that creates a range of collaborative research and innovation commercialization initiatives, including marine biotechnology, pharmaceutical sciences, single cell genomics technology, aquatic optical flow cytometry and bioinformatics, among other emerging research fields.

“The agreement establishes a framework that facilitates collaborative R&D activities between our two institutions across a broad spectrum of shared interests,” said Mark Bloom, Bigelow director of corporate alliances and technology transfer.

“We’ll be working with the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s National Center for Natural Products Research and its Department of Pharmacognosy, as well as the university’s National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology to advance biopharmaceutical sciences, as well as to develop transformative new approaches to marine natural products research and development – at Bigelow, we refer to this research focus as ‘blue biotechnology.’”“The University of Mississippi has a long track record in, and strong commitment to, ocean science research and development,” said Alice Clark, UM vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “We are excited about our partnership with the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. The combination of our institutions’ strengths and knowledge will result in new discoveries and important advances in the field of ocean science.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity for both our institutions,” said Graham Shimmield, Bigelow Laboratory executive director. “We’re eager to work together to translate ocean research into discoveries that will benefit society and industry.”

The agreement is intended to serve as “a broad mechanism to promote programmatic interaction” to facilitate joint development of relevant projects. Both partners consider their individual research strengths, technical knowledge and infrastructure to be highly complementary.

The laboratory’s work in marine bioprospecting, culturing techniques, single-cell genome analysis and associated data management integrates directly with the School of Pharmacy’s programs in natural product development (pharmacognosy), medicinal chemistry and general pharmaceutical sciences, and with the ocean biotechnology program of the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology, or NIUST.

“Natural products from the ocean are still a largely unexplored natural resource,” said Larry Walker, director of the National Center for Natural Products Research. “We at the NCNPR and the School of Pharmacy are grateful for this opportunity to partner with the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, who bring a vast expertise and infrastructure for ocean exploration that uniquely complements our own discovery and environmental health programs.”

“The ocean is a vast, complex, largely unexplored and dominant component of the earth’s biosphere,” said Ray Highsmith, executive director of NIUST. “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. A major component of NIUST is its Ocean Biotechnology Center and Repository that is focused on natural products discovery and ecological drivers of diversity.”

Specific areas of collaboration will include molecular exploration of natural products as potential new sources of pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals; research and development of prototype anti-infective and anti-cancer agents from aquatic sources; and development of new techniques for evaluating the potential research and commercial applications of aquatic algae, bacteria, viruses and invertebrates.

The institutions also anticipate that a variety of programs, symposia, workshops, post-doctoral research fellowships and innovative commercialization-related projects will stem from this partnership.

Bigelow Laboratory is internationally renowned as an independent, nonprofit center for global ocean research, ocean science education and technology transfer. Recognized as a leader in Maine’s emerging innovation economy, the laboratory’s research ranges from microbial oceanography to the large-scale ocean processes that drive global environmental conditions.

Founded in 1908, the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy is Mississippi’s only pharmacy school. Through its education, research and service missions the school aims to improve the health of Mississippi’s citizens as well as the health of people throughout the nation and the world.

The National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology was established in 2002 by the University of Mississippi and the University of Southern Mississippi in partnership with NOAA’s Undersea Research Program to develop and apply new technologies that enhance undersea research. NIUST’s mission is to provide leadership in ocean exploration and research through the integration of science drivers and technology development.