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Land-based bioprospecting and production of bioactive compounds and functional materials for multiple bio-based value chains

 

Global terrestrial biodiversity remains a largely untapped source of natural bioactive molecules and compounds, often combined with interesting potential functional properties of high economic and social value. Such chemical diversity and structural complexity may be matched with biological potency and selectivity. While some of the natural biochemical diversity has been studied[[ E.g. Horizon 2020 topic FNR-11-2020. Prospecting aquatic and terrestrial natural biological resources for biologically active compounds, ongoing project InnCoCells.]], the potential for developing new applications and products is far from exhausted[[ European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, Wydra, S., Hüsing, B., Aichinger, H., et al, Life and biological sciences and technologies as engines for bio-based innovation, Publications Office, 2021, https://data.europa.eu/doi/10.2777/046454.]]. There are still significant opportunities to improve the biodiscovery process as well as understanding of specific biochemical pathways leading to high-value applications, especially with those with a reduced Green House Gas (GHG) emissions, in various sectors, based on novel biochemicals and functional bio-based materials.

This will increase capacity in the European biotechnology sector and other industries to respond to society’s needs. The challenge is to match sustainable sourcing and processing with efficient and cost-effective use. This calls for close cooperation between industrial and academic partners, with due consideration for health/safety and environmental legislation, and informed public engagement.

Activities should address:

  • Technical improvements of the bioprospecting of any land-based organisms for potential bioactive compounds and functional materials, based on identified suitable sources of feedstock. The bioprospecting may be “bio-guided” by the study of chemical ecology interspecific interactions (symbiotic/defence) such as, for instance, plant-insects, or microbial-insect/plant/fungus interactions.
  • Addressing sustainable biodiscovery, including by advanced detection methods, such as in silico database analysis, microfluidics/lab-on-chip, high-throughput screening, machine learning, etc, overcoming the issues of low concentrations of target molecules, and their general scarcity, and use of natural biological resources from diverse terrestrial environments and ecosystems, allowing better assessment of the selected bioactivity/functional property potential.
  • Defining and assessing the optimal further production routes via innovative approaches and systems/platforms (e.g. biotechnology, hydroponics, bioreactors), as well as economic feasibility assessment of these options for resulting bioactive compounds and functional materials, ensuring full valorisation of biomass and all by-products in the production routes, and biomass’ sustainable supply, and, if appropriate, proposing an outline of continuation of the end-product development beyond the project timeline and its present resources.
  • Assessing and clearly communicating, by inclusive communication and dissemination strategies, the environmental and climate benefits (e.g. by lowering the pressure on the natural habitats (decrease of harvesting in situ), supporting nature conservation, and increase overall resource efficiency and sustainability), while expanding the range of natural ingredients for the new applications in industrial sectors.
  • Covering the environmental, climate and safety/health impacts of the developed ingredients or processes, using Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodologies based on available standards, certification, and accepted and validated approaches. Estimate of possible negative environmental impacts and trade-offs should be provided. The need to guarantee biodiversity preservation and compliance with relevant international rules on access to biological resources, their sustainable use and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from their utilisation, with the national regulations in the source countries and with the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Nagoya Protocol.
  • Food, biofuel and bioenergy applications are not in scope. Agricultural crop protection products (chemical pesticide substitutes) are also not in scope, to avoid overlaps with a parallel topic[[ HORIZON-CL6-2023-FARM2FORK-01-7: Innovations in plant protection: alternatives to reduce the use of pesticides focusing on candidates for substitution.]]. Marine and aquatic ecosystems are also out of scope to avoid overlap with parallel topics[[ Topics under the present Destination, Heading 3 – Innovating for blue bioeconomy and biotechnology value chains.]] and projects funded under the recent call[[ Horizon 2020 topic FNR-11-2020-(B). Prospecting aquatic and terrestrial natural biological resources for biologically active compounds, projects MARBLES, SECRETed, ALGAE4IBD.]]. For any health-related applications, complementarities with Horizon Europe Cluster 1 ‘Health’ should be carefully explored, to avoid duplications, and seek synergies.

Where relevant, and to increase impact, proposals should seek links and synergies as well as capitalise on the results of past and ongoing research projects[[ Horizon 2020 topic FNR-11-2020-(A). Prospecting aquatic and terrestrial natural biological resources for biologically active compounds, project InnCoCells.]] (including under the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) / Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking (CBE JU)).

In this topic the integration of the gender dimension (sex and gender analysis) in research and innovation content is not a mandatory requirement.