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Exploitation of microalgae diversity for the development of novel high added-value cosmeceuticals

Final Report Summary - ALGAECOM (Exploitation of microalgae diversity for the development of novel high added-value cosmeceuticals)

The advancement of microalgae biotechnology in Europe carries significant potential for innovative and sustainable development. Europe is well placed to maximize the potential afforded by aquatic biotechnology due to its maritime heritage with an extensive coastline and easy access to diverse marine habitats and unique freshwater habitats from marshlands to glaciers. The foundations for a thriving community are in place through a number of geographically dispersed centres of excellence, scientific endeavour in a number of key areas, and a small, but growing, company base. Microalgae biotechnology could contribute to the development and revival of nearly every industry sector, from healthcare to food technology, materials, cosmetics and nutraceuticals. The time to invest in the underpinning science, knowledge networks, and public understanding of this major field has now arrived.
The AlgaeCom project seeks to exploit the convergence of science, technology, and biotechnological tools for the creation of new knowledge and innovative applications. In particular, the main objective of the project is the characterization, and exploitation of microalgae biodiversity and technology, as a source for state-of-the-art high-added-value cosmeceuticals. Despite their enormous potential, microalgae and their products are hardly used for food, feed and health applications. From the estimated 30.000 algae species only parts a small number have been analysed and only a handful are currently used in applications. Untapped potential for algae-based ingredients in the cosmetics industry relies on the manipulation and targeting of ingredients to fit increasingly niche products specifications. In cosmetic industry, microalgae may be exploited either as natural crude extracts (multifunctional extract) or as purified specific products (bioactive secondary metabolites, polysaccharides, enzymes). The AlgaeCom project is combining both basic and applied research in the fields of –omics technologies, biochemistry and applied biotechnology in order to: i) Screen and characterize microalgae as a valuable source of novel high-added-value cosmeceuticals such as polysaccharides, enzymes and small molecule metabolites, ii) Develop catalomics, metabolomics and glycomics resources for microalgae species, as new tools for the development of new cosmetics, iii) In vitro functional characterize and toxicological analyse of microalgae cosmeceuticals using human epidermal cell lines and in vitro skin model, iv) Develop and optimize application-based microalgae culture systems at different scales and optimize environmental conditions for higher production rate of a desired product, v) Develop analytical molecular diagnostic tools for real-time monitoring of the microalgae carbohydrate and polysaccharide metabolism at a large scale, and vi) Develop, formulate and in vitro evaluation of new range of cosmetic products based on microalgae cosmeceuticals (enzymes, small secondary metabolites and polysaccharides).
The consortium was a well-balanced combination of academic and industrial partners from 3 different European countries (France, Greece and Spain), each presenting excellence at its field. Two RTD performers (Agricultural University of Athens and CERMAV-CNRS) are combining forces and expertise with two commercial partners, namely FITOPLANCTON MARINO SL. and APIVITA SA, specialized in microalgae production and natural cosmetics, respectively, for the successful outcome of the project. Beyond the more direct impact on R&D activities of both the academic and industrial partners, the completion of the AlgaeCom project will offer the opportunity for the:
• Development of well-defined end products (cosmetic products, RT-qPCR molecular tools) to industrial partners.
• Reinforcement of European’s capacity in the fields of microalgae biotechnology by exchanging complementary information related to well-specified targets, developing joint activities, and strengthening the links between academia and industry.
• Know-how diffusion: help researchers to be trained on modern biotechnological areas related to health science and allow them to have access to facilities, techniques and methods not available in their institutions. This, at personnel level, will help towards increasing the scientific excellence of each partner. The integration of advanced research with an efficient mechanism for transfer of knowledge, training and dissemination will contribute favourably to the reinforcement of green economy dimension of the FP7 thematic priorities.
• Improvement of the scientific and technological cohesion of the countries, and contribute to the solution of regional and global problems related to health and aquaculture, as proposed in the present project.
During its implementation, the AlgaeCom consortium has successfully achieved all its technical and scientific objectives. Since the Kick-off meeting, held in FITOPLANCTON MARINO SL. premises where the consortium set it initial goals and work-plan, the major achievements of the consortium include:
• Whole genome sequencing and annotation of the high commercial value microalgae species Tetraselmis chuii, currently in production in FITOPLANCTON MARINO SL. premises.
• Development of high throughput metabolomic and catalomic platforms for the analysis of microalgae biology under different culture regimes and stress conditions. New antioxidant enzymes were characterised.
• Development of efficient and cost-effective downstream processing protocol for the extraction and purification of micro-algae proteins and enzymes.
• Establishment of extraction protocols of micro-algal polysaccharides and in depth study of their structures, as part of their potential application as bioactive ingredients in cosmetics. Furthermore, we setup screens for new enzymes able to depolymerize micro-algal polysaccharides.
• Development of technologies and processes for the efficient and cost-effective production at an industrial scale of selected strains of microalgae with potential commercial interest under different growing regimes. In parallel, transcriptomic tools were developed in order to monitor metabolic pathways involved in biosynthesis of carbohydrates, lipids and polysaccharides. Finally, cell disruption methods, extraction and fractionation conditions are optimized for selected microalgae in order to increase yield and activity of the extracts.
• Design and successful implementation a novel RT-qPCR based platform for the in vitro bioactivity and biosafety evaluation of microalgae derived extracts and products using specific human skin-cell lines.
• Establishment of industrial methods for the cosmeceutical compatible extraction, encapsulation and formulation of microalgae extracts and bioactive ingredients into cosmeceutical products.
• Apart from the scientific and technical progress achieved, several training, transfer of knowledge, dissemination and outreach activities took place. These included the secondment of personnel between the partners, and the recruitment of highly competent post-doc researchers, the organisation of 4 workshops, the biannually publishing of a project newsletter, and the preparation of a technical handbook including the technologies developed and implemented within the project.
After the completion of the project, we have several microalgae extracts and specific biomolecules coming out of our research and development pipeline. The most promising extracts produced by FITOPLANCTON MARINO SL. are already being incorporated by APIVITA, at the concentrations dictated by our in vitro tests, in cosmeceutical formulations. These include a whitening face cream, an antiaging night cream, a radiant serum, a day photoprotection cream and an antiaging eye cream. This is one of the most important outcomes of the project as the close collaboration between the academic and industrial partners within AlgaeCom led to innovation that will be sold in 14 countries of the world, including Japan, Hong Kong (China), Australia etc where APIVITA is present.

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Contact Information:
Dr Emmanouil Flemetakis, Department of Biotechnology, Agricultural University of Athens,Iera Odos 75, 11855, Athens, Greece, e-mail:
Dr Nikolaos Labrou, Department of Biotechnology, Agricultural University of Athens, Iera Odos 75, 11855, Athens, Greece, , e-mail:
Dr. William Helbert, CERMAV-CNRS, Rue de la chimie, BP53x, F-38041 Grenoble cedex 9, , e-mail:
Ms. Lalia Mantecon, Fitoplancton Marino, S.L. Dársena Comercial S/N, 11500 El Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz, Spain, , e-mail:
Dr Konstantinos Gardikis, APIVITA SA, Industrial Park of Markopoulo Mesogaias 19003, Athens, Greece, , e-mail: