Innovative research to investigate antiviral properties of seaweeds

Natural extracts from brown seaweeds native to the UK have been shown to have antiviral
properties that could help stop the spread of viral diseases. Researchers at the James Hutton
Institute and AIM-listed partners Byotrol plc have been awarded funding to investigate chemical
components from brown seaweeds and identify a way to extract them into effective natural antiviral

The award was announced as part of a joint funding call by Algae UK, a network supported by the
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation
Centre (IBioIC) to promote the development of sustainable, algae-derived products.

Scotland has a long history of utilising seaweeds and this project on antivirals joins the growing
Hutton research effort into use of seaweeds as sustainable sources of food, novel animal feeds,
plant biostimulants and valuable chemicals such as alginates and nanocellulose.

The project is led by Dr Gordon McDougall and Dr Will Allwood, from the Institute’s Environmental
and Biochemical Sciences department.

Dr McDougall said: “Brown seaweed compounds contain a range of different components which
vary in composition between different seaweeds and sometimes between location of harvest and
season. We intend to apply our expertise in natural product chemistry to investigate the properties
of these compounds and find an effective way to make them available to society and hopefully help
stop the spread of viral diseases.”

Dr Huw Evans, from Byotrol plc, added: “Byotrol has, for some time, been investigating sustainably
sourced anti-virals and have found certain forms of seaweed to have particularly good potential.  We
are very pleased to now be formally collaborating with the excellent team at the Hutton in this very
interesting area””.

Upon announcing the projects funded by the joint call, Dr Mark Bustard, Chief Executive Officer of
IBioIC, said: “The proposed use of algae in the projects listed demonstrates how biotechnology can
be used to find innovative solutions to modern problems. Sustainable source materials contribute to
the low carbon agenda and a circular economy, whilst simultaneously advancing the sustainability of
several key industry sectors.

“The significant support given to the projects from industry highlights the value placed on
developing sustainable solutions and securing the supply chain for Scotland and the wider UK.”.

Professor Saul Purton, Director of Algae-UK, added: “Algae have such a broad range of applications
and huge potential in delivering sustainable solutions, so we value collaborating with others in
supporting such projects. We really look forward to seeing the results from these projects and how
they progress beyond this first step.”

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