Artenvielfalt
© Levon Biss
22 May 2020

International Day for Biological Diversity

22 May has been proclaimed the International Day for Biological Diversity. What is the origin of this commemoration day? And what does BRAIN have to do with the topic of biological diversity?

22 May marks the anniversary of the International Day for Biological Diversity. The United Nations has declared this a day of remembrance to bring the topic of biological diversity to the attention of the global public for one day – a clear sign that biodiversity is under threat. The fact that this commemoration day has been in existence since 1993 proves once again that science has long been aware of the important role played by biological diversity in ecological systems. But many people have only really started to notice the topic since last year, when an alert was launched concerning plummeting insect numbers. Since this change can be perceived by everyone, it has helped to make a broad section of the public more aware of the issues of biological diversity and environmental protection. The good thing is that once an issue has been raised, there is often no way for politicians to avoid addressing it.

What exactly does biological diversity mean?

But what exactly does biological diversity mean? According to the definition set out in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), it means "the variability among living organisms from all sources, including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems". The CBD is a multilateral convention and those who sign it commit themselves to these goals:

  • the conservation of biological diversity (or biodiversity),
  • sustainable use of its components and
  • fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from genetic resources.

So it is about much more than "just" preserving individual animal or plant species so that we humans can use them or enjoy them. It is really about sustainable agriculture, desertification and drought; water supply and sanitation; energy, science and technology; urban resilience and adaptation; oceans, seas and forests; but also about vulnerable ethnic groups - and last but not least, biodiversity also plays a role in securing our food.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres made very clear on 22 April this year that biological diversity was "in steep decline". This was his statement on the occasion of International Mother Earth Day, and he called on governments around the world not to lose sight of climate protection despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

And what does BRAIN have to do with biological diversity?

BRAIN focuses on industrial biotechnology. The technology company focuses on corresponding living cells, e.g. yeast cells, filamentous fungi, bacteria or human cell lines. The metabolic performance of these tiny cells is used in the fermentation process to chemically transform substances in a targeted way. When working in a cell-free system, enzymes are the real "heroes". They or the microorganisms that house them can enable

  • products to be synthesized that are later more easily degradable (e.g. bio-based plastics, paints, adhesives and lubricants),
  • product syntheses to require less energy and/or chemicals (e.g. paper production),
  • climate-damaging substances to be used as raw materials (e.g. CO2 as a carbon source for chemical compounds),
  • recycling processes to become more environmentally friendly and sustainable (e.g. recovering valuable metals from ores or residual materials using microorganisms instead of chemicals),
  • the quality of products to be improved (e.g. refinement of textiles; optimizing the texture or taste of food).

Back to biological diversity: Biotechnology is based precisely on this biological diversity, because the diversity of microorganisms, enzymes and metabolic pathways offers endless possibilities for using them as biological solutions for sustainable industrial processes.

Over the past 25 years, the BRAIN company has built up an exceptionally large collection of microorganisms. These originate from around 450 different habitats and the collection known as the "BioArchive" contains over 53,000 microorganisms in total. All of them are culturable and comprehensively characterized. Many of the enzymes and metabolic pathways of these microorganisms have been and are being analyzed at the protein and genome level and the data obtained serve as the basis for finding a suitable candidate for a specific problem.

Building blocks for bio-based chemicals

The biological diversity of BRAIN's BioArchive can be used in a wide range of industrial processes. One example are bacteria that produce multi-chain carbon compounds from short-chain carbon compounds. These in turn can be building blocks for specialty chemicals such as paints, coatings or lubricants. Or they can also be used for polymers for manufacturing foams. Instead of consuming petroleum for this building block synthesis, as is usually the case, the climate-damaging gas CO2 can thus be converted - first by means of a chemical step and then with the help of microorganisms (so-called decarbonization).

Conclusion

Biotechnological processes have promoted the trend in the chemical industry towards the use of bio-based building blocks. The incredible biodiversity in the world of microorganisms has played a major role in this context. BRAIN's Bioarchive with its thousands of microorganisms is constantly being expanded and is an enormously helpful source for identifying previously uncharacterized microorganisms, enzymes and natural products. This collection can therefore also be seen as a platform for biodiversity.

More on biological diversity:
A different take on biodiversity. Article from BRAIN Magazine Blickwinkel 5/2017

Information on the BRAIN BioArchive

BRAIN offers you the following services, based on the BioArchive:

  • We find, develop and optimize enzymes and bioactive natural compounds to match your requirements.
  • We identify and develop high-performance microorganisms as functional biomass to optimize industrial production processes.
  • We supply you with biomass that can be used for certain processes in your company.
  • We are continuously expanding our BioArchive and the possibilities to find the optimal solution for customer requirements. Modern modelling technologies as well as extensive experience in molecular biological technologies, bioinformatics and protein engineering are brought in.

More information about the BRAIN Biotechnology Portfolio

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