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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    • "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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    ABSTRACT: This paper aims to get a better understanding of the motivational and transaction cost features of building global scientific research commons, with a view to contributing to the debate on the design of appropriate policy measures under the recently adopted Nagoya Protocol. For this purpose, the paper analyses the results of a world-wide survey of managers and users of microbial culture collections, which focused on the role of social and internalized motivations, organizational networks and external incentives in promoting the public availability of upstream research assets. Overall, the study confirms the hypotheses of the social production model of information and shareable goods, but it also shows the need to complete this model. For the sharing of materials, the underlying collaborative economy in excess capacity plays a key role in addition to the social production, while for data, competitive pressures amongst scientists tend to play a bigger role.
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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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    ABSTRACT: Access and benefit-sharing (ABS) is a market-based approach aimed at preserving biodiversity. Its effectiveness has been questioned in international discussions for many years. It is evident that the approach’s success has fallen far short of what was expected: degradation of biodiversity continues, and only few benefits arising from the commercial use of biodiversity have been shared with the providers of biodiversity. The reason for this failure is a lack of incentives. However, an analytical assessment of the effectiveness of the concept is lacking so far. The present paper raises the question how ABS must be designed in order to be effective while also helping to protect biodiversity and promote a fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from its commercialization. This paper identifies six critical factors that determine the effectiveness of ABS governance and discusses under what circumstances a critical factor increases or decreases in effectiveness. Furthermore, the paper analyses so-called countermeasures that impact on these circumstances. In specifying the critical factors and their interplay with the countermeasures, the paper gives guidance on how to develop more effective ABS regimes. KeywordsAccess and benefit-sharing (ABS)–Convention on Biological Diversity–Biodiversity protection–Regime effectiveness–Institutional economics
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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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    ABSTRACT: Rapidly growing global networking has induced and supported an increased interest in the life sciences in such general issues as health, climate change, food security and biodiversity. Therefore, the need to address and share research data and materials in a systematic way emerged almost simultaneously. This movement has been described as the so-called global research commons. Also in microbiology, where the sharing of microbiological materials is a key issue, microbial commons is attracting attention. Microbiology is currently facing great challenges with the advances of high throughput screening and next-generation whole genome sequencing. Furthermore, the exploration and use of microorganisms in agriculture and food production are increasing so as to safeguard global food and feed production. Further to several meetings on the subject, a special issue of Research in Microbiology is dedicated to Microbial Research Commons with a series of reviews elaborating its major pay-offs and needs in basic and applied microbiology. This paper gives an introduction to these articles covering a range of topics. These include the role of public culture collections and biological resource centers and legal aspects in the exchange of materials, microbial classification, an internet-based platform for data-sharing, applications in agriculture and food production, and challenges in metagenomics and extremophile research.
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