Last modified on: 17/10/2016
R&D

Over two decades of consistent support by the Department of Biotechnology to aquaculture and marine biotechnology sector has led to many notable achievements and developmental milestones. DBT started by promoting translational research in shrimp aquaculture like adapting and upscaling hatchery and farming technologies, setting up demonstrations in collaboration with other governmental agencies like the Marine Products Export Development Authority. Thus DBT played a catalytic role in shrimp aquaculture taking off at a commercial scale. However, soon disease problems struck aquaculture but DBT supported research in aquatic animal health area in a big way and promoted the application of modern tools of biotechnology to improve diagnostics, develop immunostimulants, vaccines and other health management technologies. Some of the technolgies have been patented and commercialised. Simultaneously, DBT supported research involving marine bioprospecting and exploring marine environment for biomolecules with pharmaceutical and nutraceutical applications. DBT has been supporting national Institutes of ICAR, ICMR, CSIR, DST, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Ministry of Environment, central and state Universities including agriculture, veterinary and fisheries Universities, as will as UGC recognised private universities. Some of the important achievements are highlighted below:

 

• Biotechnological tools for aquatic animal health management:

Research supported by DBT has led to the introduction of Polymersae Chain Reaction (PCR) and antibody based rapid detection of pathogens in India. This has helped aquaculture industry to implement biosecurity by avoid use of infected brood stock in hatcheries, infected larvae in farms and preventing or minimising entry of carrier animals to the farms. Immunostimulants and herbal extracts that can help farmed shrimp overcome disease problems have been commercialised. A number of potential vaccine candidates including recombinant proteins, double stranded RNA have been emerged. Molecular tools like microsatellite markers, small sequence repeats and single nucleotide polymorphisms have been identified in both hosts and pathogens to be used as markers for disease resistance in hosts or as virulence markers in pathogens and providing opportunity for development of disease resistant stocks. To faciltate more research on viruses that are emerging as important pathogens in aquaculture, a number of fish cell lines have been developed and repository of these has been created so that researchers can easily access them.

 

Improving breeding technologies and developing expertise in transgenic technologies:

To contribute to improved aquaculture production, DBT has supported research on transgenic fish technology and on breeding new varieties of fish to diversify cultured species. Research on improved breeding of ornamental fish has also been supported to contribute to economic development and livelihood opportunities. Since feed is one of the major inputs required for aquaculture, research on development of improved feeds, improving feed coversion ratio, setting up field trails of technologies developed has been supported.

 

• Bioprospecting of marine organisms and search for bioactive molecules:

A number of research projects supported by DBT have led to development of research leads in relation to bioactive compounds from a range of marine organisms such as molluscs, seaweeds, marine algae. The molecules found include displaying biosurfactant, antibacterial, antiplasmodial, anticancer, antiinflamatory antiviral and antimycotic activities. Some of the moleculeas are at a stage of purification, structural characterisation and scaling up for animal trials.

 

Molecular approaches to understanding and conservation of marine biodiversity:

Molecular genetic studies and DNA barcoding has been applied to number of marine habitats and this has led to identification of new species from unique habitats like the Lakshadweep sea. A study of about 1700 molluscan samples has led to development of a database of 774 species and DNA barcodes were established for 132 species. Twelve new species of cephalopods have been identified. Considering the importance of horse shoe crab as a source of bioactive molecules, DBT has supported research on improving natural stocks through artificial insemination and searanching. A repository on marine cyanobacteria has been established with DBT support. This repository has about 600 microalgae including 40 polar psychrophilic strains.

 

Bioremediation and utilisation of fish processing wastes:

DBT supported research has looked into possibility of developing technologies for the production of gelatins, collagens and chitins from fish processing wastes. Research leads on biological aplications of fish gelatin and collagen in developing scaffolds and edible films for coating foods have been developed.

 

• Whole genome sequencing of important commercial species:

Considering the importance of indegenous fish species for aquaculture, DBT has supported programmes on whole genome sequecing of two important species, Labeo rohita and Clarius batrachus. This work would lead to generation of genomic resources to improve marker assisted selective breeding for better growth and disease resistance.