Biotechnology Institute of the Iranian Research Organization for Science and Technology

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Last Updated: August 1, 2008
Other Name: Biotechnology Department of IROST, Biotechnology Research Center, Group of Fermentation and Biological Technology
Location: Tehran
Subordinate To: Ministry of Culture and Higher Education
Size: At present, Amir Kabir University (AKU) has 7000 students in undergraduate and post-graduate programs. It has 14 engineering departments, five research centers, and an associate university complex located at the town of Tafresh near Tehran. AKU employs 48
Facility Status: Operational

The group of biotechnology was established as an independent entity within IROST in 1980—one of the first orders of business was establishing the "Culture Collection of Industrial and Infectious Microorganisms" (the Persian Type Culture Collection).

Initial research focused on laboratory-scale projects concentrating on the "application of Bacillus thuringiensis against Anopheles larvae." This research lead to the construction of a biotechnology pilot plant in 1989 for the production of B. thuringiensis. The pilot plant, shown below, was inaugurated in 1990 and produces more than two tons of bioinsecticide per year.

As of January 1999, Dr. Nassrin Azimi has been in charge of one of the five biotechnology groups at the center. The center has continued to work on many biotechnology projects at both the laboratory and semi-industrial levels. One of the most successful projects involved producing bacterial insecticides in cooperation with UNESCO.

Currently, the center is working on 17 research projects. The engineering group is now working to perfect production equipment, such as fermenters. The center also coordinates the research on fermentation agents produced by the Razi Institute for Serums and Vaccines. Parts and equipment needed for the center were imported through Dubai and Singapore. According to the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the Biotechnology Research Center is one of Iran's main bodies for biological weapons production.

Agricultural Biotechnology

The pilot plant above falls under the Agricultural Biotechnology department. Although the pilot plant was constructed with the purpose of producing B. thuringiensis serotype 3a3b, the Agricultural Biotechnology research area also has laboratory and pilot plant production of Fusarium spp. as well as pilot production of Verticillium lecani. The fusaria are used for the biocontrol of broomrape in sunflower, tomato, and tobacco fields. The B. thuringiensis is used against "forest pest and corn, sugar beet, rice, and sugar cane lipidopteran pests." The V. lecani is used against aphids that attack tobacco and citrus trees.

In addition to bioinsecticide production, this department also has conducted research on single cell protein production for animal feed derived from agricultural waste composed of high levels of cellulotic material. This research has focused on deriving single cell proteins from citrus peel pigments and pectins as well as algae fermented by halophyte microorganisms.

Other areas of research include producing biofertilizers from agricultural waste and pistachio peels, and creating water absorbing biopolymers.

Environmental Biotechnology

Most of the activities of this department focus on researching microorganisms capable of cleaning the environment from industrial pollution. The projects focus on microorganisms capable of the biodegradation of crude oil, the desulforization of organic sulfur found in fossil fuels, and the treatment of textile manufacturing waste water.

Food Biotechnology

This department focuses on developing single cell oils and proteins from molasses, whey, and date syrup, cultivating mushrooms, developing starter cultures for cheese and yoghurt, and developing enzymes from gram-positive bacteria and fungi for the starch processing (a-almylase, pullulanase, glucoamylase, glucose isomerase), fruit juice (a-almylase, naringinase, pectinase), sugar (a-almylase, dextranase, raffinase), and dairy (galactosidase, lipase, rennin) industries.

Medical Biotechnology

This department produces penicillin G, streptomycin, lincomycin, erythromycin, and cephalosporin C in laboratory and pilot study production. The department has also worked on developing B. thuringiensis MH-14 (Bt-MH-14) into a biopesticide for mosquito control. This project was begun in 1982 and was developed into a joint project between IROST, with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) from 1989-92. In this project, Bt-MH-14 was produced in the pilot plant and different formulations were tested in regions contaminated with malaria vectors. The technique used, a slow release formulation of Bt-MH-14, was claimed to exhibit a 100 percent control rate against malarial mosquito vectors. Bt-MH-14 was found to maintain a consistent toxicity on the surface layer of water for 15-25 days, was not affected by water pollutants or ultraviolet radiation, and was effective with area coverage of 1/7kg per hectare.

In addition, the department conducts laboratory and pilot plant production of Bacillus sphaerricus 1593 to combat Anopheles and Cules mosquitoes. Laboratory and pilot plant study has been completed on the production of lactic acid, mine pilot plant production, and strain improvement has been completed on cyclosporin A, and work has also been conducted on levostatin.

Persian Gulf Marine Biotechnology Research Center

Located on Queshm (Qeshm) Island in the Persian Gulf, across from the city of Bandar-e Abbas and near the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf Marine Biotechnology Research Center provides training, research, and production facilities for the:

  • Establishment of marine microorganisms and algae culture collection
  • Production of implants for bone transplant using corals
  • Production of anti-cancer drugs
  • Polysaccharide production (agar and alginate)
  • Pearl oysters breeding and production (in conjunction with UNESCO) with the aim of creating a sustainable pearl industry
  • Large scale production of SCP and biofertilizer from macro algae
  • Production of beta-carotene from Dunaliella salina
  • Production of microalgae for aquaculture feed

The center is guarded by the Pasdaran (Islamic Revolution Guard Corps).

Sources:
[1] IROST, www.irost.org; Biotechnology Institute of IROST, biotech.irost.net; Persian Type Culture Collection, database.irost.net.
[2] Don Sutton, "Harmful Fungi Requested by Iranian, Scientist Says," Globe and Mail (Toronto), 14 August 1989, p. A1.
[3] "Iran's Mustard and Nerve Gas," Jane's Foreign Report, 20 May 1993, volume/issue: 000/2256.
[4] "Clerical Regime's Quest for biiological Weapons & Germs Arsenal," Remarks to the Press by Soona Samsami, US Representative of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, 26 January 1999, p. 2.
[5] "Magazine Outlines Biotechnology Research Centers in Iran," Ettela'at-e Elmi (Tehran), 14 May 2001, in FBIS Document IAP20010514000001, 15 May 2001.
[6] Gudio Olimpio, "Khatami to Visit Rome on European Mission," Corriere della Sera (internet version), 4 February 1999; in "Italian Daily Cites MKO Report on Iran's CBW Program," FBIS Document FTS19990204000672, 4 February 1999.

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