A new Fraunhofer Centre for Systems Biotechnology, in Santiago de Chile, was officially opened earlier this month with a brief to develop and optimise technologies in areas of importance for the Chilean economy.
Collaborations between Chilean and German scientists at the centre will focus on aquaculture, renewable energy, agriculture, and bio-computing. The research is designed to put emphasis on the traditional economy, based upon raw materials, agriculture, aquaculture and the sustainable use of natural resources.
Systems biotechnology is an emerging field in life sciences that seeks to develop an understanding of complex and dynamic processes in cells, organisms and ecosystems, considering each at a systems level. This is achieved by creating computer models and mathematical simulations, which can then be applied to real life problems encountered in relevant industries.
The Fraunhofer Centre for Systems Biotechnology is the first be launched by the Fraunhofer Chile Research Foundation, following its foundation in October 2010. This is also the Fraunhofer’s first research centre in South America, and was opened by Chile’s Economic Minister, Pablo Longueira.
Between 2007 – 2009 the aquaculture industry in Chile suffered dramatic losses as farmed Atlantic salmon were ravaged by a deadly virus, infectious salmon anaemia. It was subsequently acknowledged – by the Norwegian multinational Cermaq amongst others – that the rapid spread of the virus was the result of unsustainable practices such as overcrowding in fish cages.
One research project to be carried out at the new centre aims to avoid another such a crisis in the future by developing new and more rapid methods for early detection of fish diseases.