Biological diversity or biodiversity is fundamental for human life, as well as vital for creating environmental balance. Mankind has benefited from biodiversity, as it provides natural services such as fresh water and clean air, biological resources such as medicinal plants and food, as well as socio-economic benefits of tourism. Increasingly, countries are recognizing the importance of biodiversity as an asset that can be developed to add value to their economies.
Located in South-East Asia, ASEAN member countries with overlapping 4 biodiversity hotspots, “Indo-Burma, Sundaland, Wallacea, and the Philippines”. This rich natural environment enables ASEAN member countries to generate economic value from its biological resources and enhance its competitiveness in emerging biotechnological fields such as green and clean technologies through research and development.
As ASEAN Economic Community will be formed in 2015, it is timely that science should follow suit. Recognizing the potential application of microorganisms, every ASEAN member country is engaging in research into microbial utilization in various degree, some looking into the development of biopesticide, while others exploring the potential of microorganisms in pharmaceutical or green industrial applications. To strengthen ASEAN research community towards sustainable utilization of biological resources, an establishment of ASEAN Network on Microbial Utilization is proposed. This Network will serve as a platform for capacity building, resource and knowledge sharing in the area of microbial utilization. It can further catalyze bilateral or multilateral research collaboration among member institutes. This Network will also create visibility of ASEAN and attract collaboration from other regional and international bodies such as the World Data Centre for Microorganisms (WDCM), World Federation for Culture Collections (WFCC) and the Asian Consortium for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Microbial Resources (ACM).
- To strengthen ASEAN research community towards sustainable utilization of biological resources which can only achieved through an efficient management of microbial resources and research on microbial utilization.
- To enhance human resource development through training program and sharing of resources.
1. Knowledge-Sharing Web Portal
A web portal will be created to provide information and knowledge which shall benefit members. Examples of information to be shared are: lab protocols, scientific publications, lectures and best practice guidelines. As most of the members are academic institutes, this knowledge should be useful for teaching and research experiment.
The National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC) of Thailand will establish and maintain this web portal for the first 5 years. The responsibility of web portal maintenance can be reviewed and decided by the Network members afterwards.
2. Capacity Building
Capacity building can be in the forms of scientific seminars, conferences, workshops or technical trainings. Many institutes organize seminars and workshops on a regular basis, and therefore through the information dissemination of the Network, the institutes can be informed and take advantage of participation, thus promoting the sharing of information among ASEAN members. The Network can raise fund and/or collaborate with international organizations to initiate specific training activities.
For specific technical training, initially the training on the following topics can be offered to the network members by BIOTEC:
- Bioresource Utilization Study. Expertise on natural products and enzyme technology can also be transferred to member institutes through workshops and research-based training.
- Fungal Collection and Identification.BIOTEC has developed expertise in various types of fungi such as insect-pathogenic, aquatic, marine, litter, etc. These fungi serve as a good source for novel compounds and enzymes for agricultural or industrial purposes. This expertise can be transferred to member institutes through in-country training workshop as well as research-based training program offered at BIOTEC annually (Human Resource Development in Biotechnology Program).
- Microbial Collection Database Management. iCollect is a software to support the laboratory’s inventory management of biological collections, including microorganisms, developed by BIOTEC and is currently used at BIOTEC and University of North Texas Health Science Center at Forth Worth, USA. BIOTEC will offer any member institutes to use iCollect with no loyalty fee and provide training to technicians in each institute.
Additional topics arise from meetings/correspondences can be proposed and implemented based on consent of implementing parties.
The network shall function as following:
- The network shall consist of academic and research institutes with education and/or research in microbial utilization. It is anticipated that the network can be initiated with research / academic organizations from at least 3 ASEAN member countries, and can continually expand.
- The network shall meet regularly, preferably in conjunction with a conference or workshop as an avenue to keep members abreast with new technology and policy concerning microbial technology, as well as to foster interaction and collaboration with other major players such as industry, relevant inter-governmental bodies, or international scientific association.
- BIOTEC, Thailand will serve as AnMicro secretariat for the first five years. The Network will make a decision on the location of AnMicro secretariat again in 2019.
- New members must be recommended by an existing member, after which AnMicro secretariat is to contact the potential new member to submit information of the institute, especially the work on microbial utilization. The information would then be reviewed by the members for initial assessment. If the assessment is positive, the potential candidate must attend the next AnMicro meeting to make the presentation on its institute in order to be accepted into the network.
- Membership will be revoked if an institute fails to participate in two consecutive AnMicro meetings starting in 2016.
Roles and expectation of member institutes
Member institutes shall:
- make available any non-confidential knowledge related to microbial utilization to other members through web portal for the research and educational purposes;
- bear the cost of participating any capacity building activities and network meetings hosted by other members, unless external sponsorship is available. Participation, however, is not mandatory; each member can make decision to participate according to their interest and available fund.