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On-line shopping - for viruses, fungi, bacteria and much more

Soon, it will not just be catalogues of consumer goodies such as wines, books and cars that you can browse on the world wide web. A database of the UK's scientific collections of micro-organisms and cells goes on-line on Thursday 15 April 1999.

The new web site of the United Kingdom National Culture Collection (UKNCC) is one element of a programme that has been led by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) over the past three years to co-ordinate activities and to help academic and industrial scientists in the UK and around the world to make the most of the country's collections of over 70,000 microbes and special cell lines.

The UKNCC is being formally launched at a special reception in Edinburgh on 15 April to coincide with the annual meeting of the Society for General Microbiology.

Lord Sainsbury, the Minister for Science, has expressed his support for the UKNCC. "The UK's Culture Collections are a valuable asset. They contain the fruits of decades of microbial research and are a permanent resource for researchers, providing high quality cultures and information. As such, they provide fundamental underpinning to the UK's science base. Their role as a long term repository of a wide diversity of species also makes them an important resource for the growing biotechnology industry." "I hope that UKNCC will set a quality standard for the world and will be in a strong position to take advantage of the commercial opportunities available."

The UKNCC comprises ten separate collections, that range from wood rotting fungi and food bacteria to mammalian cells and marine algae. In recent years, increased focus on issues of global biodiversity, and on the exploitation of natural organisms in a range of biotechnologies, has led to a renewed interest in the collections.

The UKNCC has been established, under the aegis of BBSRC, following the recommendations of a Government sponsored review which concluded that co-ordination within a single body offered the most effective way of maintaining and using the valuable resources stored in each collection.

The key activities of the UKNCC are to serve as a repository of valuable strains and to preserve them; to aid in the identification and characterisation of organisms; to market the organisms and to provide testing and industrial services; and to provide analysis, advice, monitoring and other services related to assessment of biodiversity.

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). April 1999.

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