The theme of the BioVisionAlexandria 2008 will be “From Promises to Practice” and will focus on translating the best existing knowledge into new approaches. Leading experts of the four corners of the globe are invited to address new approaches explaining why the immense advances that are taking place in science do not adequately translate noticeable improvements in the lives of the poorest 20% of the human race.
The Conference will shed light on themes: Health, Agriculture and Environment. Each of these themes will be addressed by representatives of the greatest minds in industry, science, policymakers and civil society fields.
BioVisionAlexandria is a continuation of the tradition that started in BioVision 1999 in Lyon, the BA has been honored to be an associate with BioVision by which it holds the BioVisionAlexandria every even year alternating with the World Life Science Forum held in Lyon every odd year.
BioVision Alexandria 2008
Today's Providence for Tomorrow's Survival-- Today's means in human hands for constructive or destructive actions are nearly unlimited.We urgently need control mechanisms on more..
various levels. Perhaps the most effective one relies on education towards societal responsibility. Only when we learn to respect the needs of others, also of future generations, instead of maximizing our personal profit, we will contribute to the world's stability and future hospitability. In the context of the current globalization, global institutions are indispensable to define the rules of international trade and cooperation. The free market concepts and the absolute sovereignty of States clearly have their limitations and need to be supplemented by binding rules that enforce global fairness and sustainability
Grand Challenges In Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases- Priorities For Developing Countries
Chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs- which include heart disease, stroke, some more..
cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and type 2 diabetes) are increasing rapidly throughout the world and are reaching epidemic proportions in many countries. They account for 60 % of all deaths (and 44% of premature deaths) worldwide. 80 % of these deaths occur in low and middle income countries. The number of deaths is double that from infectious diseases (including HIV, tuberculosis and malaria), maternal and perinatal conditions, and nutritional deficiencies combined. The risk factors include tobacco use, decreasing physical activity and increasing consumption of unhealthy foods. They exact a huge economic toll. These CNCDs can largely be prevented, yet they have been neglected, particularly in developing countries. Without concerted action, some 388 million people will die of one or more CNCD in the next 10 years. With concerted action, we can avert at least 36 million deaths by 2015. I will report on our work published in Nature (see below) in November 2007 that used the Delphi method and a global panel of experts to identify 6 goals, 20 Grand Challenges for both science and policy, and 39 research questions that need to be addressed to solve the Grand Challenges. I will also highlight the newly established Grand Challenges Global Partnership and its work. Daar AS, Singer PA, Persad D, et al. Grand Challenges in Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases. Nature. November 2007. Vol 450, pp. 494-496
Lessons from Health Biotechnology Innovation Systems of Emerging Economies
Over the past few years we have undertaken a number of major studies of health biotechnology innovation systems, starting at national levels in Cuba, Brazil, South Africa, Egypt, India, China (and South Korea for comparison). More recently we have been studying the role of the private sector in China, India, Brazil and other emerging economies. From these and other studies empirical case studies we have been able to draw some important lessons, good practices, and recommendations. I will highlight those that are of potential value to the Arab Region
The density of minerals and vitamins in food staples eaten widely by the poor may be increased through plant breeding - a process known as biofortification. Biofortification can be more..
accomplished through conventional plant breeding or through use of transgenic techniques. Biofortified crops offer a rural-based intervention that, by design, initially reach these more remote populations, which comprise a majority of the undernourished in many countries, and then extend to urban populations as production surpluses are marketed. In this way, biofortification complements fortification and supplementation programs, which work best in centralized urban areas and then reach into rural areas only in areas with good infrastructure. Initial investments in agricultural research at a central location can generate high recurrent benefits at low cost as adapted biofortified varieties become available in country after country across time at low recurrent costs. HarvestPlus seeks to develop and distribute varieties of food staples (rice, wheat, maize, cassava, sweetpotato, beans, and pearl millet) which are high in iron, zinc, and provitamin A through a global alliance of scientific institutions and implementing agencies in developing and developed countries involved in plant breeding, molecular biology, human nutrition, food science, farm extension, communications, and economics. In broad terms, three things must happen for biofortification to be successful. First, the breeding must be successful – high nutrient density must be combined with high yields and high profitability. Second, efficacy must be demonstrated – the micronutrient status of human subjects must be shown to improve when consuming the biofortified varieties as normally consumed. Third, the biofortified crops must be adopted by farmers and consumed by those suffering from micronutrient malnutrition. Progress in these three areas will be discussed four years into the project.
Most efforts to combat micronutrient deficiency in the developing world focus on providing vitamin and mineral supplements to the poor and on fortifying foods with these nutrients more..
through postharvest processing. The introduction of biofortified crops – varieties bred for increased mineral and vitamin content – could complement existing nutrition interventions and provide a sustainable, low-cost way of combating malnutrition. In Brazil, the activities of the HarvestPlus challenge Program on Biofortification and of the AgroSalud Program are coordinated by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), which includes a number of research centers that are part of the biofortification network. The difference between the two programs is that the AgroSalud Program has a focus on Latin America and The Caribbean and on postharvest processing. The main food staples under research in Brazil are: cassava, sweet potato, rice, common beans, maize, cowpea and wheat. Embrapa Cassava and Tropical Fruits has already released two varieties of cassava with higher levels of beta-carotene and, in the last two years, is monitoring their performance in the semi-arid region of the country. Researchers of Embrapa Maize and Sorghum implemented the quality protein maize (QPM), which has 50% more lysine and tryptophan; from these QPM varieties, it is expected the development of maize with higher levels of beta-carotene, zinc and iron. Some common beans genotypes evaluated by Embrapa Rice and Beans, presented iron and zinc levels 50% and 43% higher than the ones of conventional cultivars, respectively; however, the productivity is still a challenge for the breeders. Also, a cowpea variety, with higher levels of iron was identified by Embrapa Mid-North and will be released in 2008. Concerning partnerships, the state of Maranhao was the first to structure a biofortification network of public institutions for the introduction in the fields of biofortified crop varieties.
Malaria is endemic in over 100 countries containing half the world’s population. Close to two million persons die yearly from malaria—over 5,000 per day, mainly young children. more..
Plasmodium falciparum, one of the four human malaria parasites, causes the most severe disease, manifesting in anemia, low birth weight, cerebral malaria, metabolic derangements, and dire sequelae including cognitive impairment. The greatest burden of malaria is in sub-Saharan African due to the pervasiveness of Anopheles gambiae, the female of which prefers humans for its blood meals. P. vivax is now recognized as causing up to 400 million clinical episodes of malaria yearly, with added dangers due to its relapsing nature Recent advances in malaria research and public health practice have resulted in use of artemisinin-based combination treatments (ACTs) for patients exposed to drug resistant malaria; long-lasting insecticide treated nets (LLINs) for personal protection; intermittent preventive treatment (IPT) for pregnant women; and a renewed interest in insecticide residual spraying (IRS) of dwellings with DDT and alternate insecticides. Organizations stimulating the major increases in malaria research, control and prevention are the Multilateral Initiative on Malaria, Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria, World Health Organization, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative. Southern African countries, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Zanzibar Island report sharp decreases in the malaria burden giving hope that sustained control and elimination of this scourge may be possible.
New high-throughput sequencing technologies such as Roche 454 and Solexa make it realistic to expect all genomes of bacterial pathogens to be sequenced. High level of more..
automatization and a significant reduction of price allow to use these technologies as a routine for diagnostic and monitoring of pathogens in field. New ‘laboratory-on-a-chip’ (LOC) technologies are expected soon which are going to revolutionize the study and monitoring of environmental microflora. The progress in development of new technologies challenges bioinformaticians to provide more powerful approaches for a large-scale simultaneous analysis of multiple short DNA reads to identify and monitor species of interest. We focused on development of computer-based algorithms to address the problems of clustering and identification of environmental sequences generated by modern high-throughput sequencers. We developed an algorithm of self-organizing hierarchical clustering of multiple DNA reads originating from different bacterial species. The oligonucleotide compositional bias of the environmental sequences was used as a genomic signature to cluster and identify the DNA fragments. The program is scalable for analysis of large datasets (up to 10,000 reads). The program showed rather high performance (3500 reads per 40 min) with almost linear dependence of the total time of analysis on the number of analyzed sequences. The sequences were clustered in accordance with the phylogeny of microorganisms they derived from. In parallel a database of oligonucleotide signatures from 8 to 14 bp calculated for all sequenced genomes was developed. Apparent redundancy of signature oligos is important for identification of short metagenomic reads. Discovery of unique oligos and patterns of infrequent oligos allows development of a tool to search the most appropriate DNA probes for diagnostic chips.
Bioinformatics: Essential infrastructure and important tools for genomics in developing countries Huanming Yang, Ph.D. Director, Beijing Genomics Institute, China Bioinformatics is more..
the scientific core and most important tools of genomics, as well as of the whole field of life sciences. Genomics, a new frontier and foundation of life sciences and biotechnologies, has two solid pillars based on two understandings of life: “Life is of sequence” and “life is digital”. These understandings have made sequencers and supercomputers powerful tools and have changed for ever the practice of biological research. 2007 has been acknowledged as a Year of Miracle for genomics and life sciences. However, neither breakthrough in technology nor discoveries in science of the year would have been made without the development of bioinformatics. This brings another historic opportunity for the developing countries to pick up in life sciences and biotechnology. Priorities should be given to developing bioinformatics. Department of Bioinformatics has been one of the major contributors to all the achievements made by Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) in the past years. For examples, the working draft, then fine sequence map, of rice by whole genome shotgun sequencing, was successfully gained by developing RePS and its improved version RePSII to overcome the obstacle of the unknown repeats for de novo sequencing of genomes, as well as ReAS and other sequence annotators to make a number of important discoveries by identification of DNA functional elements from the genome sequence. Bioinformatics is both labor-intensive and brain-intensive, which is one of the advantages of the developing countries. BGI’s new Department of Informatics in Shenzhen has more than 100 programmers, and its computing capacity has been expanded with a new high-performance computer of 416 CPUs, a memory of 912G, and a storage of 300T, as required by the next-gen sequencers of 6 Solexa and 2 SOLiD presently and even more in the nearest future.
Biofuels: Where we stand? Energy resources have the largest influence on the decisions that people and governments make. Energy is one of the fundamental elements in any economy of more..
any nation. Today, crude petroleum represents the dominant raw material for the energy worldwide. Energy consumption is increasing dramatically and there is no sign that this growth in demand will abate. Global energy consumption is projected to increase by 57% from 435 trillion MJ in 2002 to 681 trillion MJ in 2025. Global petroleum demand in 2004 was 82 million bbl/day, with a projected increase to 111 million bbl/day in 2025. Biofuels are derived from non-depleted resources. They include production of bioethanol, biogas, biodiesel, as well as hydrogen production by microorganisms. Raw materials could be energy crops, algae and water plants, and various organic wastes. Bioethanol was introduced into the transportation fuel supply chain as early as the 1970s in Brazil. Nowadays, several countries have adapted the bioethanol concept. Bioethanol is produced commercially by fermenting sugars with yeast or bacteria. Cellulosic and starch containing raw materials are also used after hydrolyzing them. The process needs media sterilization and adjustment, sterilization, and later special distillation of the resulting broth to obtain fuel-grade ethanol. Although yeast (Sacharomyces sp.) yields higher amount of ethanol than bacteria (Zymomonas sp.), but it usually does not ferment pentose sugars found on many lingo-cellulosic materials. Recent advancement in biotechnology allowed the introduction of non-native metabolic pathways. Natural ethanol producing bacterium Zymomonas mobilis has been metabolically engineered to ferment xylose and arabinose as preferred carbon sources via introduction/expression of E. coli pathway genes. Xylose utilization by S. cerevisiae has been optimized via introduction of a Piromyces sp. xylose isomerase. Moreover, osmotolerant stains that contain the hydrolytic enzymes genes were recently announced. Biogas generation is a unique technique for converting waste to energy. The gas formed is mainly methane mixed with CO2. It is common in many countries to use waste materials for biogas production. In the UK for instance, methane produced from sewage works is used to run “Combined Heat and Power” engines, producing heat for the digestion process, and electricity used either at the works or sold to the National Grid. In Sweden, the remaining biogas is used as fuel in public transport vehicles. Another option for biofuels is the biodiesel, which is made from virgin vegetable oils, from waste fryer oils, or from waste animal fats and oils. It can be used alone or blended with petroleum diesel in any percentage without major modifications to the engine. Biodiesel includes fuel derived from corn, soybeans, sunflower seed, cottonseed, canola and rapeseed, and others. Transesterification is used to transform the raw vegetable oil into biodiesel and glycerin. This process is not complicated and uses methanol and sodium hydroxide as a catalyst. There is another impressive way of producing energy using the hydrogen-producing bacterium Halobacterium halobium which is still under intensive research. Bacteriorhodopsin, a protein found in the purple membrane of the bacterium, is known to pump protons across the membrane upon illumination, which creates an electrochemical gradient across the plasma membrane of the intact cell. The purple membrane is oriented in such a manner that the release of protons will occur into the surrounding medium. Thus hydrogen can be collected and stored. Egypt’s biomass potential is approximately 23 million tons of agricultural residues and 4.88 million tons of animal waste. One-third and one-tenth of the fuel requirements of rural Egypt are met from crop residues and animal droppings, respectively. If proper technology is applied to convert biomass into biofuel, energy requirement could be met.
There are about 2 billion people that do not have access to energy as we know it. They are literally living in the DARK AGE! NO ENERGY MEANS NO EMPLOYMENT, LOW PRODUCTIVITY, NO more..
INDUSTRY, NO AGREGATION OF VALUE TO PRODUCTION, NO CONSUMERS MARKET, DEFORESTATION, POOR SANITATION SERVICES, ILNESSES, HUNGER AND IGNORANCE! The world is global – poverty, hunger, ignorance is bad business to all. We have daily proofs of it everywhere. Festering interplay among poverty, infectious disease, and environmental degradation are declared as the true "axis of evil” by the Worldwatch Institute in its State of the World 2005 report. In its Millennium Statement, the WORLD ENERGY COUNCIL established three sustainability objectives, coined the 3 A’s: Accessibility to modern, affordable energy for all; Availability in terms of continuity of supply and quality and reliability of service; Acceptability in terms of social and environmental goals. And the requirements: Sustainability in terms of environment and return of investment Prices affordable by the poorer classes Diversification of energy sources Fragmented production and distribution HOW DO WE ACHIEVE THIS? HOW DO WE GO FROM PROMISSES TO PRACTICE IN BIOENERGY? HOW CAN BIOTECH HELP? We developed a business oriented closed loop concept for the efficient biomass based production of energies (biofuels, biogas and electricity) and proteins that addresses the quest for environmentally friendlier energies, cleaner production effluents and low cost feed, while answering this BIOVISIONALEXANDRIA and the WEC objectives. In several of these “productions”, biotechnology has an important contribution. We present that concept as one possible solution to mitigate the deficiency of energy in developing regions and the basic requirements to make it work.
Bioenergy plays an important role in the four Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. It has the potential to contribute to securing energy supply, reducing GHG more..
emissions, providing a cost efficient alternative to fossil fuels, offering business opportunities in technologies and know how. Although bioenergy has many advantages, with the increasing demand for biomass resources in Europe and on the world market, prices are likely to increase. Further, the increased use of biomass puts pressure on land use, biodiversity, soil and water resources. In a situation with conflicting agendas and interests, decision-makers are facing the difficult task how to make wise market pull and technology push policies for the bioenergy sector. The paper will present preliminary results from a study on how the Nordic countries address the challenges and opportunities of expanding bioenergy markets. The political framework conditions for supporting the bio-energy sector differ between the Nordic countries. Currently, there is no common use of actual policy measures and political framework conditions among the Nordic countries apart from complying with EU policies. All the Nordic countries have supported electricity and heat generation from renewable energy sources during the 21st Century to some extent. However, the national measures to support bio-energy differ between the different Nordic countries. Bioenergy for heating is a general political priority for all Nordic countries, whereas Sweden has been a pioneer with respect to biofuels. Whereas support measures differ among the countries, policies seem to converge in R&D in 2nd and 3rd generation bioenergy technologies, though not in the field of raw materials/feed stock.
The Argentinean case is a clear example of how societies can benefit from agricultural biotechnologies. GM crops (herbicide-tolerant soybeans) were introduced in 1996, and since more..
nine additional events have been released commercially. At the present, GM varieties represented over 99% of planted soybeans, 75% of maize and 80% for cotton. Along this process, Argentina has become the second largest producer of GM crops, with over 19.5 million hectares planted. Overall this process has resulted in more than doubling of grain and oilseed production and significant economic benefits, estimated to be more than 20 billion USD for the 10 years past since their introduction (19.7 billion originated in soybeans, about 500 million form maize and about 20 million from insect-resistant cotton, with most of the benefits going to farmers). The presentation analyzes the main aspects of this process as well as its implications for natural resources use and other indirect effects on the wider economy, including nutrient extraction and potential future productivity losses, economic growth and employment creation, among other aspects. Out of these experiences several important issues come as lessons for the future. Emphasis is made on the benefits of the early adopter. It is clear that those countries that came early on into the technologies benefited the most, and that this behavior even contributed to global benefits. Related to this aspect is the importance of the institutional framework – biosafety regulations and a seed industry - to be able to benefit from the technologies. Finally, other policies implications covering biosafety / trade / infrastructure considerations are also touché upon as critical components for assuring the full exploitation of thetechnologies’ potential benefits.