The essentials of marine biotechnology

Ana Rotter*, Michéle Barbier, Francesco Bertoni, Atle M. Bones, M. Leonor Cancela, Jens Carlsson, Maria F. Carvalho, Marta Cegłowska, Jerónimo Chirivella-Martorell, Meltem Conk Dalay, Mercedes Cueto, Thanos Dailianis, Irem Deniz, Ana R. Díaz-Marrero, Dragana Drakulovic, Arita Dubnika, Christine Edwards, Hjörleifur Einarsson, Ayşegül Erdoǧan, Orhan Tufan EroldoǧanDavid Ezra, Stefano Fazi, Richard J. FitzGerald, Laura M. Gargan, Susana P. Gaudêncio, Marija Gligora Udovič, Nadica Ivošević DeNardis, Rósa Jónsdóttir, Marija Kataržytė, Katja Klun, Jonne Kotta, Leila Ktari, Zrinka Ljubešić, Lada Lukić Bilela, Manolis Mandalakis, Alexia Massa-Gallucci, Inga Matijošytė, Hanna Mazur-Marzec, Mohamed Mehiri, Søren Laurentius Nielsen, Lucie Novoveská, Donata Overlingė, Giuseppe Perale, Praveen Ramasamy, Céline Rebours, Thorsten Reinsch, Fernando Reyes, Baruch Rinkevich, Johan Robbens, Eric Röttinger, Vita Rudovica, Jerica Sabotič, Ivo Safarik, Siret Talve, Deniz Tasdemir, Xenia Theodotou Schneider, Olivier P. Thomas, Anna Toruńska-Sitarz, Giovanna Cristina Varese, Marlen I. Vasquez

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    Coastal countries have traditionally relied on the existing marine resources (e.g., fishing, food, transport, recreation, and tourism) as well as tried to support new economic endeavors (ocean energy, desalination for water supply, and seabed mining). Modern societies and lifestyle resulted in an increased demand for dietary diversity, better health and well-being, new biomedicines, natural cosmeceuticals, environmental conservation, and sustainable energy sources. These societal needs stimulated the interest of researchers on the diverse and underexplored marine environments as promising and sustainable sources of biomolecules and biomass, and they are addressed by the emerging field of marine (blue) biotechnology. Blue biotechnology provides opportunities for a wide range of initiatives of commercial interest for the pharmaceutical, biomedical, cosmetic, nutraceutical, food, feed, agricultural, and related industries. This article synthesizes the essence, opportunities, responsibilities, and challenges encountered in marine biotechnology and outlines the attainment and valorization of directly derived or bio-inspired products from marine organisms. First, the concept of bioeconomy is introduced. Then, the diversity of marine bioresources including an overview of the most prominent marine organisms and their potential for biotechnological uses are described. This is followed by introducing methodologies for exploration of these resources and the main use case scenarios in energy, food and feed, agronomy, bioremediation and climate change, cosmeceuticals, bio-inspired materials, healthcare, and well-being sectors. The key aspects in the fields of legislation and funding are provided, with the emphasis on the importance of communication and stakeholder engagement at all levels of biotechnology development. Finally, vital overarching concepts, such as the quadruple helix and Responsible Research and Innovation principle are highlighted as important to follow within the marine biotechnology field. The authors of this review are collaborating under the European Commission-funded Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Action Ocean4Biotech – European transdisciplinary networking platform for marine biotechnology and focus the study on the European state of affairs.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number629629
    Pages (from-to)1-53
    JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
    Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    Table 4 briefly outlines the strategies and funding mechanisms in the EU that directly or indirectly tackle marine biotechnology. They can also serve as a tool for streamlining current efforts and consolidating future directions. Depending on the funding scheme these tools can act at European-, regional-, national-, and bilateral-scale. The European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry (SusChem) has issued a new Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda in 2019 with a vision where sustainable chemistry and biotechnology provide solutions for future generations. The SusChem priorities align well with the field of marine biotechnology as the priorities are (i) advanced materials and advanced processes for circular economy and resource efficiency, and (ii) low carbon economy toward mitigating climate change and protecting environmental and human health. The European Green Deal [COM(2019), 640] is an EU growth strategy to transition into a prosperous society with a resource-efficient and competitive economy. National funding mechanisms can sometimes provide partial financing through research programs and national projects. At the European scale, Horizon2020 and its successor, Horizon Europe framework programs are the ones directly funded by the EU budget. The marine biotechnology sector significantly benefits from the Horizon funding mechanism, intending to directly address societal challenges and promote the development of innovative societies through international cooperation and collaboration of academic and industrial partners. Some financing opportunities have limited country participation depending on the governmental organizations (national ministries) that typically endorse the respective national participation. Therefore, the establishment of collaborations between scientific institutions and the policy making sector is of extreme strategic importance. An example is the Action ERA-NET COFUND on Blue Bioeconomy – unlocking the potential of aquatic bioresources, which is currently running with limited participation from 16 European countries. Another source of funding at the European level stems from the European Regional Development Fund. Marine biotechnology is not uniformly represented as a strategic priority at the regional and transregional levels. The Interreg Baltic Sea Region, for example, has marine biotechnology at the core of blue growth. Marine biotechnology is also encompassed in the Interreg Mediterranean and Atlantic transnational collaborations. Another funding source is the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. This is implemented at the national scale, through co-financing operational programs. Moreover, marine biotechnology is a part of the maritime economy, a high-potential economic sector. The co-funding programs come along with the national ones that are financed by the Public Investments Programs. Among the Joint Programming Initiatives (JPIs), JPI-Oceans has a priority

    Funding Information:
    AR, KK, and TR: the publication is part of a project that has received funding from the European Union Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under grant agreement no. 774499 – GoJelly project. AR and KK: this research was funded by the Slovenian Research Agency (research core funding P1-0245 and P1-0237). AR: this publication has been produced with financial assistance of the Interreg MED Programme, cofinanced by the European Regional Development Fund (Project No. 7032, internal ref. 8MED20_4.1_SP_001) – B-Blue project. AB: acknowledges the support from the Research Council of Norway through the grant 267474 from the HAVBRUK2 program. MLC: acknowledges the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (UIDB/04326/2020), the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (MAR2020 OSTEOMAR/16-02-01-FMP-0057 and ALGASOLE/16.02.01-FMP-0058), the European Regional Development Fund (Atlantic Area BLUEHUMAN/EAPA/151/2016 and INTERREG V-A Spain-Portugal ALGARED+), and the European Commision (H2020-MSCA-ITN BIOMEDAQU/766347). MFC: wishes to acknowledge the funding from CEEC program supported by FCT/MCTES (CEECIND/02968/2017); ACTINODEEPSEA project (POCI-01-0145-FEDER-031045) co-financed by COMPETE 2020, Portugal 2020, ERDF and FCT; Strategic Funding UIDB/04423/2020 and UIDP/04423/2020 through national funds provided by FCT and ERDF. MC: financial support from the Programme of the Institute of Oceanology, PAS (grant no. II.3) and National Science Centre in Poland (project number NCN 2016/21/B/NZ9/02304). MCu: acknowledges the funding from the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación of Spain (SAF2009-0839 and RTA 2015-00010-C03-02) and INTERREG-MAC2/1.1b/279 (AHIDAGRO). AD-M: acknowledge financial support from INTERREG-MAC/1.1b/042 (BIOTRANSFER2) and Agustín de Betancourt Programme (Cabildo de Tenerife and Universidad de La Laguna). AD: work has been supported by the ERDF Activity “Post-doctoral Research Aid” of the Specific Aid Objective 1.1.1, Operational Programme “Growth and Employment” (No. RJF: funding for this research was provided under the Marine Research Programme 2014–2020, through the Marine Institute of Ireland under grant PBA/MB/16/01 “A National Marine Biodiscovery Laboratory of Ireland (NMBLI)” and through the Food Institutional Research Measure, administered by the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, Ireland under grant issue 17/F/260 (MaraBioActive). SG: this work was supported by the Applied Molecular Biosciences Unit-UCIBIO which is financed by national funds from FCT/MCTES (UID/Multi/04378/2019). SG thanks financial support provided by FCT/MCTES through grant IF/00700/2014 and OceanTresaures project PTDC/QUIQUI/119116/2010. NID: wishes to acknowledge the funding from the Croatian Science Foundation Project CELLSTRESS (IP-2018-01-5840). MMa and TD: we wish to acknowledge funding from the General Secretariat for Research and Technology (GSRT) and the Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (HFRI) under grant no. 239 (SPINAQUA project). AM-G: acknowledges the financial contribution from the project BYTHOS funded by the European Union’s Interreg V-A Italia-Malta Programme under project code C1-1.1-9. HM-M: financial support from National Science Centre in Poland 2016/21/B/NZ9/02304 and 2017/25/B/NZ9/00202. MMe: this work has been supported by the French Government, through the UCAJEDI Investments in the Future project managed by the National Research Agency (ANR) with the reference number ANR-15-IDEX-01.

    Funding Information:
    This publication is based upon work from COST Action CA18238 (Ocean4Biotech), supported by COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) program.

    Funding Information:
    MMe: thanks the Canceropôle Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, and the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Region for the financial support provided to the MetaboCell project. DO: supported by the Doctorate Study program in Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Marine Research Institute, Klaipėda University, Lithuania. CR: we gratefully acknowledge the Research Council of Norway, the Møre and Romsdal County Council and Møreforsking AS for their financial contributions through the PROMAC (244244;, the Norwegian Seaweed Biorefinery Platform (294946;, and the Blå-Grønn (55031) projects. ER: this work benefited from financial support from the PACA Canceropôle, the National Cancer Institute, the PACA Regional Council and the French Government, managed by the National Research Agency as part of the Université Côte d’AzurJEDI Investissement d’Avenir project (ANR-15-IDEX-01). JS: work was supported by the Slovenian Research Agency (P4-0127 and J4-1771). IS: financial support from Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic (project CZ.02.1.01/0.0/0.0/17_048/0007323). XT: the tool “RRI Roadmap” was developed as part of the European Horizon 2020 project MARINA “Marine Knowledge Sharing Platform for Federating Responsible Research and Innovation Communities” under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement

    Publisher Copyright:
    © Copyright © 2021 Rotter, Barbier, Bertoni, Bones, Cancela, Carlsson, Carvalho, Cegłowska, Chirivella-Martorell, Conk Dalay, Cueto, Dailianis, Deniz, Díaz-Marrero, Drakulovic, Dubnika, Edwards, Einarsson, Erdoǧan, Eroldoǧan, Ezra, Fazi, FitzGerald, Gargan, Gaudêncio, Gligora Udovič, Ivošević DeNardis, Jónsdóttir, Kataržytė, Klun, Kotta, Ktari, Ljubešić, Lukić Bilela, Mandalakis, Massa-Gallucci, Matijošytė, Mazur-Marzec, Mehiri, Nielsen, Novoveská, Overlingė, Perale, Ramasamy, Rebours, Reinsch, Reyes, Rinkevich, Robbens, Röttinger, Rudovica, Sabotič, Safarik, Talve, Tasdemir, Theodotou Schneider, Thomas, Toruńska-Sitarz, Varese and Vasquez.

    Other keywords

    • bioprospecting
    • blue growth
    • ethics
    • marine biodiversity
    • marine bioeconomy
    • marine natural products
    • responsible research and innovation (RRI)
    • sustainability


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