Marine Biotechnology

Humankind has always depended on the sea -- for food, for medicinal treatments, for wealth. Now the new science of biotechnology has created new exciting possibilities for making the most of the ocean's bounty and for developing products never before associated with the sea. Biotechnologists use living organisms (or parts of organisms) to make or modify products, to improve plants or animals or to develop microorganisms for beneficial uses, including the development of materials that mimic molecular structures or functions of living organisms. Marine organisms, in particular, represent great phylogenetic diversity, making them reservoirs of unique genetic information and important natural resources for possible development. Exploratory research shows the great potential for exploiting the biochemical capabilities of marine organisms to provide models for new classes of pharmaceuticals, polymers, enzymes, other chemical products, and industrial processes, as well as vaccines, diagnostic and analytical reagents and genetically altered organisms for aquaculture and the seafood industry. Marine biotechology is also providing new tools and approaches for determining water quality and for understanding ecological relationships among marine organisms and for defining fisheries and stocks that will help improve marine resource management.
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