The ocean post – Editorial Jan-Mar 2021
2021 started with two auspicious events: the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccinations, and the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union. While seemingly unrelated, these two events are inextricably linked, in my opinion. The development of the Covid-19 vaccines (plural!) was a triumph of science and biotechnology. We were witness to the largest collaborative effort of all times, where scientists, governments and regulatory bodies came together to fund and streamline the development, testing and approval of several highly effective vaccines, achieving success in less than a year and, consequently, making it possible for us to hope that this pandemic will soon be over.
We also witnessed, as one of the first official acts of the Portuguese Presidency, the launch of the new research and innovation framework programme, that will run from 2021 to 2027, Horizon Europe. This ambitious 100 billion euro programme will be instrumental in shaping the future of blue bioeconomy. Without funding frameworks like Horizon Europe and its predecessor, H2020, the advances we are witnessing in science and technology would be impossible. I have mentioned the Covid-19 vaccines, but these were only part of this global effort. New medical ventilators and other innovative medical equipment were developed, new rapid testing solutions, portable UV light disinfection equipment, and the list goes on. All these developments allowed ICUs everywhere to significantly increase their capacity, being able to cope with what would otherwise have been a losing battle. Perhaps more discreet were the breakthroughs in blue biotechnology, like the reprofiling of plitidepsin (synthetic drug based on a substance produced in a species of ascidians found in the Mediterranean Sea, used for treating some cancers), shown to be effective in reducing the viral charge in covid-19 patients. Or the discovery that a polysaccharide from a macroalgae could serve as a potential drug candidate to protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection. Without the funds that were quickly made available for Covid-19 related R&D, it would have been impossible to be where we are today. Without collaboration, we would have failed. This type of collaboration is at the genesis of CoLABs and we are working together to be a part of this new and exciting era of open science.
CEO of Soja de Portugal
President of B2E CoLAB