Biodiscovery

Close synergy between research and commercialisation allows for a robust and dynamic approach to biodiscovery.

Biodiscovery 1

Global biodiversity is utterly dominated by the microscopic world. Yet, despite the best efforts of microbiologists, our knowledge of microbial diversity is still in its infancy. The advent of cultivation independent (molecular) detection of microorganisms has facilitated the assessment of the microbial community make-up without the requirement of laboratory-based culturing. This technology has highlighted what microbiologist’s have suspected for years; that most microbial species, including the majority of microbial phyla or divisions, remain uncultivated, and thus poorly understood.

This discrepancy is emphasized by a recent estimation that more than 75% of the known ~100 phylogenetic divisions (known as candidate divisions) contain exclusively uncultured bacteria. Despite a growing scientific and industrial effort to characterise these uncultivated bacteria, over 70 entire kingdoms have so far evaded all attempts at cultivation. As of 2004, only 5 divisions of the Domain Bacteria (Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Cyanobacteria, Firmicutes and Proteobacteria) represented 95% of all published (cultivated) species.

Our goal is to cultivate and describe this ‘missing’ microbial diversity in the tree-of-life.

We seek to culture representatives of the as-of-yet uncultured majority in our laboratory. This will provide a greater understanding of global biogechemical cycles and ecological roles. These microbia represent significant missing nodes in the ‘tree-of-life’, and thus also substantial gaps in our knowledge and understanding in microbial ecology, evolution, biochemistry and biotechnology.

This work may lead to commercial opportunities for the development of new biotechnologies.

Biodiscovery 2

We have isolated a large number of novel microbial isolates from New Zealand geothermal and hydrothermal sites, many of which represent new species, genera or even phyla. Of particular note are:

We welcome collaborative research - please contact us to discuss your project.

Click here to download the Ministry of Economic Development’s Bioprospecting Policy Framework for New Zealand (0.92Mb, PDF).