November 05th 2014

MCI as lead partner in the COIN research consortium

Algae as the basis of valuable products for the pharmaceutical, food and cosmetics industries – Joint research project involving the MCI, ADSI and the Upper Austrian University of Applied Sciences

In collaboration with the Austrian Drug Screening Institute (ADSI), a company established by the University of Innsbruck, and the Upper Austrian University of Applied Sciences, the MCI is working to develop new processes for converting algae into high-grade raw materials and active agents with enormous potential for pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and the food and cosmetics industries. The MCI’s contribution to the project includes twelve years of experience in the field of algal biotechnology.

The purpose of the envisaged processes is to produce valuable active agents, additives and specific products from algae and micro-algae and to employ the residual biomass as a source of energy. The MCI’s departments of Biotechnology and Environmental, Process & Energy Engineering are providing their extensive expertise in research and development and are also acting as lead managers for the project.

Algae are a complex group of photosynthetic microorganisms which employ various mechanisms to protect themselves from bacteria, viruses, fungi, excessive UV radiation, etc. These properties make it possible to derive innovative products such as antifungal and antiviral agents, cosmetics and food additives.

This potential has so far remained largely unexploited. The research project called “Cooperation for Competence Building: Valuable Products from Algae – Screening, Cultivation and Downstreaming” (or (Co)-Operation SKD for short) has been established to offer targeted products and services to future industry partners.

Professor Christoph Griesbeck, Program Director in the MCI’s Department of Biotechnology, is very pleased with the latest developments: "The COIN project constitutes recognition for our long years of work with micro-algae. It will help us put our research on a broader footing and, especially in cooperation with our project partners, combine it with screening, process engineering and analytics. That will lead to faster results in the form of new products offering attractive opportunities for our industry partners.”

The project is scheduled to run for four years. Total costs of the project, which has been submitted to the FFG (Austrian Research Promotion Agency), amount to 1.3 million euros.

Other statements:

Professor Alexander Jäger, Vice-Dean of the Upper Austrian University of Applied Sciences: "With this project, our university is moving into a completely new field of Biotechnology and Life Science research. Our objective is to become an international player as a center for algal products.”

Professor Günther Bonn, Scientific Director Analytics at ADSI: “ADSI is a translational research operation at the University of Innsbruck. It is making its full analytical capacities available for this joint project with the MCI and the Upper Austrian University of Applied Sciences. This cooperative venture is of great importance, not just for us but for the complete Austrian research scene with all its universities and non-university research facilities.”

Professor Lukas A. Huber, Scientific Director Cell Biology at ADSI: “ADSI brings academic knowledge to the application and is therefore the ideal partner for this project, for which we are employing our unique analytical equipment and test bench.”

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