Thailand and ASEAN represent a huge share of the planet’s biodiversity. Biological resources such as living organisms, cells, and genetic materials play an important role for the development of biotechnology, life science research and development, and human life. With advancements in molecular biology, new discoveries are made daily, allowing us to obtain and modify those biological resources for human benefits. Unfortunately, over exploitation, illegal trading, natural disaster, climate change and pollution can contribute to the massive extinction rate of these known or possibly undiscovered biological resources.
Bio-resource center plays important part not only in preserving and conserving the world’s biodiversity and genetic resources of microbes but also in promoting scientific investigation and research and development. Nowadays, there are more than 600 bio-resource centers around the world and they contribute significantly to the implementation of the Conservation on Biological Diversity (CBD). The CBD is an international legally binding treaty and has three main goals: conservation of biological diversity; sustainable use of its components; and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources. According to the World Data Centre for Microorganisms (WDCM), ASEAN Member States have a large number of bio-resource collections available to users as an infrastructure for their research.However,numbers of microbe cultures preserved at these collections are very small compare to the biodiversity in the area. Moreover, it is impossible that single bio-resource center can possess all of existing microbial resources and encourage the use of biological resources and internationalization of R&D.
In the process of continuous integration in 2015 with the ASEAN Economic Community’s single market, ASEAN Member States are increasingly engaging in research into sustainable utilization of microbes to generate economic value of biological resources. Thailand Bio-resource Research Center (TBRC) together with ten academic and research institutes from five ASEAN Member States decided to establish the ASEAN Network on Microbial Utilization (AnMicro). The objectives of the AnMicro network are to:
- Strengthen the scientific collaboration towards sustainable utilization of microbes by creation of the microbial biotechnological-based forum as a platform for scientific exchange in ASEAN, and establishment of knowledge exchanging network in ASEAN on microbial biotechnology
- Develop human resource through training course and sharing resources in ASEAN countries
- Develop the guideline to facilitate international access, transfer, and share benefit arising from the utilization of the microbe that complies with the CBD and the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from Their Utilization (ABS)
Under the collaborative efforts between TBRC and its partners, we attempt to utilize our expertise in bio-resource utilization to connect research and analysis in many scientific disciplines as well as in biotechnology and industry. With this Network, we hope to generate economic value and enhance the competitiveness to ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) from its rich biological resources, and to sustain the biodiversity of ASEAN ecosystems.
About the Author – Dr. Honglada Thoetkiattikul is an ASEAN-US Fellow from Thailand. Currently, she is assigned to work with the Thailand Bioresources Research center (TBRC), Ministry of Science and Technology. She is working on developing guidelines for Thailand on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from Their Utilization (ABS). This guideline will encourage the regional and national utilization and exchange of microorganisms, biological materials and informationand ultimately, strengthen ASEAN regional capacity on the conservation of biodiversity for a sustainable future.