OCEANOMICS, funded by Investments for the Future

© Oceanomics 150px

The OCEANOMICS program will give us an opportunity to find applications for Tara Oceans’ discoveries in various domains of research and development aimed at the global ecology of the planet. At the “Salon d’Agriculture” today,  Minister of Research M. Laurent Wauquiez, and Minister of Agriculture, M. Bruno LeMaire announced the results of their call for “Biotechnology and Bioresource” projects. OCEANOMICS is one of  8 research projects selected during this 2nd round, and the only one not in the field of agronomy. 

The OCEANOMICS project aims at promoting in France a rational and sustainable use of one of the world’s most important ecosystems in terms of ecological changes and bioresources: marine plankton. The problem is not simple, since the rather diluted biomass of plankton is largely unknown in terms of its biodiversity and potential in biotechnology.
The realm of marine plankton comprises 98% of the planet’s biosphere, and the realm of plankton in French waters is 20 times greater than France’s land surface. Every liter of seawater contains somewhere between 10 to 100 billion organisms – viruses, bacteria, micro-algae, and microscopic animals – communities characterized by very rapid growth and intense interactions. This represents an enormous resource containing different forms of life and unexplored bioactive compounds.
In its exploratory phase, the OCEANOMICS project is based on the Tara Oceans Expedition, a public/ private collaboration that collected samples and eco-morpho-genetic data in 11 different size categories, covering the totality of planktonic communities, including viruses,   bacteria, eggs, embryos, and large animals, at more than 200 sites and several depths across the oceans of the world.

OCEANOMICS proposes a combination of sequencing protocols and high-rate imaging in order to extract information from this unique collection of samples, on several systemic levels: DNA, RNA, and phenotypes. Comparisons between our new data with environmental meta-data, and with new genomes of certain planktonic reference organisms sequenced in the context of this project, will give us a deep understanding – taxonomic, metabolic, and ecosystemic – of the structure, dynamics and evolution of plankton biodiversity
At the same time OCEANOMICS will use this new knowledge in various collaborations with private partners – ILLLUMINA, ALTRAN, VEOLIA, LEICA, GREENTECH, SOLIANCE, FERMENTALG, in order to:
(1) use new technologies and methods of sequencing/high-speed imaging in case-studies for aquatic biomonitoring.
(2)conduct phenotyping of environmental samples and selected strains for analysis of their lipids, secondary metabolites, and exo-metabolomes.
(3)  screen selected strains for bioactive compounds of interest in various fields: pharmacology, nutrition, aquaculture, cosmetics, and also in the domains of agriculture & environment.

OCEANOMICS will also serve as a case-study to define a balanced legal model for the bio-prospection of marine plankton. Involving several major French and international research centers (CNRS, UPMC, GENOSCOPE, ENS, EMBL), OCEANOMICS will operate at the crossroads of several national and European initiatives, and will act as a powerful catalyst for France’s important entry into the “Blue Revolution”.

Coordinator of OCEANOMICS: Colomban de Vargas (c2vargas@gmail.com)