The Rationale for MIRRI
Microorganisms provide essential raw material for biotechnology - but to date less than 1% of the estimated number of species are described and available to be harnessed by man (Amann et al. 1995). Furthermore, recent studies (Stackebrandt 2010; Stackebrandt 2011) suggest that less than 0.1% of prokaryote strains published in the scientific literature were deposited in public service collections or mBRCs (microbial Biological Resource Centres) or simply retained for future study and use.
Some 0.5 million strains are supplied each year by collections registered with the World Data Centre for Microorganisms (WDCM). It is estimated that 70% of strains used in published research are not from collections thus tens of thousands resource strains are sourced for research often without proper authentication and provenance.
A coordinated policy to make such genetic resources available is needed to support research and development in academia as well as industry.
As new species are discovered, the expertise is difficult to locate to ensure their correct identification and this human resource is diminishing. By an increased interoperability of existing data and databases MIRRI will overcome this problem: material as well as expertise can easily be accessed via the MIRRI web portal.
Public sequence databases are expanding rapidly providing modern tools for identification but the information is often of poor quality and often not backed up by the biological material which would enable validation of data.
The existing but fragmented resources, distributed across Europe, need to be coordinated and operated to common standards with facilitating policy. This will help focus activities to resolve key problems and address the big challenges in healthcare, food security, poverty alleviation and climate change.
There is a need for improved access to biological materials for research and better uptake into innovation; gaps must be closed and important services, addressing the needs of the users of microbial resources, must be covered: this is what MIRRI (i.e. 44 public collections and institutes across Europe) will deliver.