CABI contributes to AgriFood and Nutrition section of new Microbiome Strategic Roadmap

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08 February 2021, UK: CABI’s Dr Matthew Ryan has chaired an expert group from academia and industry to produce the AgriFood and Nutrition section of the KTN Microbiome Innovation Network’s new Microbiome Strategic Roadmap.

The report reviews the landscape of microbiome science and innovation within the UK and, in line with a ‘one health’ approach, spans human, animal and plant sectors with key recommendations on how to advance science translation and business creation.

Dr Ryan, who also contributed to the Biobanking workstream as part of the creation of the report, says the collaborative effort of 74 leading academic and industrial scientists in the UK highlights how England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has the opportunity to become world leaders in the development of agricultural biologicals – the market of which is currently more than USD $10 billion a year.

“The microbiome is crucial to support UK self-sufficiency now that we have left the EU, as well as global food security and quality. Other countries are leading the way and we must catch up,” he said. “At the ecosystem level, better understanding of the plant/rhizosphere microbiome will help to protect natural biodiversity and public goods, reduce soil loss and thus enhance potential for future farming.”

Included in the section on AgriFood and Nutrition – which is also co-authored by scientists from the University of Warwick, Rothamsted Research, John Innes Centre/UEA, SRUC, CHAP and Syngenta Crop Protection – are a serious of top-level recommendations including developing ‘next generation’ bio-banking and increasing strategic funding for microbiome research and innovation.

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Dr Ryan, Curator, Genetic Resource Collection at CABI, added, “Although a number of important steps have already been taken to support the UK’s potential for microbiome innovation in the agri-food and nutrition/crop and soil health sector (e.g. the investment in National Agri-Tech Centres and UK-Crop Cryobank microbiome project), the very significant opportunities for the economy, food security and the environment will require substantially more support if the potential is to be realised.”

Other sections in the report, which summarise the current state of microbiome research, business and growth opportunities within each sector, also include ‘intestinal microbiome transfer, manufacturing, diagnostics and intellectual property.

Dr Andrew Morgan, Chair of the Microbiome Innovation Network Advisory Group, said, “The UK needs to build on its world leading position in the science of the microbiome by taking concrete and timely actions to significantly increase the translation and impact of this science. This report provides clear and actionable recommendations to ensure UK competitiveness in this rapidly emerging field of science and innovation.”

The Microbiome Innovation Network was launched in 2019 with the vision and goal of enabling visibility and accessibility to UK microbiome science in the UK and internationally. The group suggests that by building collaborative networks they can translate their aims through to marketplace innovations as driving an even greater fundamental understanding of how microbes interact with their hosts and thereby unlock the full potential of this rapidly developing field of science.

Dr Ryan stresses that the report has many relevancies to CABI’s work such as key areas of crop and soil health as part of the Plantwise programme. He added that regulatory activities – including those associated with the CABI Bioscience service offerings and in line with international agreements such as the Nagoya Protocol, are also highlighted as significant within the Microbiome Strategic Roadmap.

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