Global Microbial Commons: Institutional Challenges for the Global Exchange and Distribution of Microorganisms in the Life Sciences

Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain), Centre de Philosophie du Droit, Collège Thomas More b146, Place Montesquieu 2 box15, B-1348 Belgium.
Research in Microbiology (Impact Factor: 2.71). 07/2010; 161(6):414-21. DOI: 10.1016/j.resmic.2010.04.012
Source: PubMed


Exchanges of microorganisms between culture collections, laboratories and researchers worldwide have historically occurred in an informal way. These informal exchanges have facilitated research activities, and, as a consequence, our knowledge and exploitation of microbial resources have advanced rapidly. During the last decades of the twentieth century, the increasing economic importance of biotechnology and the introduction of new legislation concerning the use of and access to biological resources has subjected exchanges of genetic resources to greater controls. Their access and distribution are more strictly regulated and, therefore, exchanges are becoming more and more formalized. This paper analyzes one of the main drivers of the movement toward more formal worldwide exchange regimes, which is increasing global interdependency of access to genetic resources. Its main finding is that formalization of exchange practices as such is not necessarily leading to more restrictive licensing conditions. The goal of further formalization and harmonization of institutional frameworks should therefore be to provide the broadest possible access to essential research materials (within the constraints set by biosecurity and quality management requirements), while maximizing the reciprocity benefits of access and exchange (which motivate the exchange practices to start with).

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Available from: Tom Dedeurwaerdere, Jun 30, 2014
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    • "Nevertheless, in the field of the exchange of materials, many of the collections that are member of the WFCC have already taken steps to contribute to such tracking and monitoring, without major impact on the hampering of the exchanges. In particular, the use of a formal Material Transfer Agreement and the documentation of countries of origin is an established practice, even though new constraints for such monitoring and/or documentation might arise in the context of the implementation of the Protocol (Dedeurwaerdere, 2010a). In contrast, the fate of public availability of environmental and genomic data, that are associated with the microbial holdings, is still highly uncertain (Greiber, 2014). "
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    • "In any other cases of intended use the user has to negotiate the terms with the appropriate authorities in the source country. The MTA covers the transfer of material among scientist working on joint projects (Dedeurwaerdere 2010). "
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    • "These research collections play an important role in the overall research cycle, because this is where the first selection and screening of reference materials is undertaken. On average, deposits from these research collections represent 30% of the yearly accession of new holdings in the public culture collections, while both academia (58%) and the private sector (23%) are important recipients from cultures of the public culture collections (Dedeurwaerdere, 2010a). Many of the services provided by BRCs and knowledge accumulated in these institutions are relatively unknown to the applied microbiologist or scientist. "
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