In 1983 the Council of Ministers decided to bring the microbial resource holdings and the expertise available in different Belgian institutes together in a network of culture collections: with this the consortium of Belgian Coordinated Collections of Micro-organisms (BCCM) saw the light of day.
Today, the BCCM consortium has grown to become one of the most important culture collections in the world, both in terms of the size and quality of the collections (bacteria, yeasts, moulds, plasmids, diatoms, DNA libraries) and its expertise. Not only does the consortium keep more than 200,000 quality controlled, characterised and documented units of biological material, but it also offers its expertise through services and partnership projects.
The BCCM consortium is composed of 7 decentralised culture collections that are coordinated by a central team at the Belgian Science Policy Office. Each collection is part of a binomial with its host laboratory. The close cooperation between these two partners leads to an optimal balance between research and conservation activities.
Moreover, the cooperation between the collections leads to the exchange and implementation of best practices for the conservation of microbial genetic resources and the harmonised application of international standards and regulations in microbiology.
Thanks to the recurrent funding programme from the Belgian Science Policy Office, and with the support of their respective host institutes, about 70 people study and conserve the biodiversity present in the BCCM collections. As such, they contribute to research, development and innovation activities in biotechnology and life sciences.
Since March 1, 1992, the BCCM consortium has been recognised as an "International Depositary Authority" (IDA) by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). Therefore, the BCCM collections can accept as patent deposits under the Budapest Treaty:
- all bacterial strains, except pathogens belonging to a hazard group higher than group 2 (BCCM/LMG);
- filamentous fungi and yeasts, including phytopathogens but excepting pathogenic fungi causing mycosis in man and animals belonging to a hazard group higher than group 2 (BCCM/MUCL);
- filamentous fungi and yeasts, including pathogens that cause mycosis in man and animals (BCCM/IHEM);
- human and animal cell lines, including hybridomas (BCCM/GeneCorner);
- genetic material in a host or in the form of isolated material (e.g. plasmids, oncogenes, RNA) (BCCM/GeneCorner)
In fact, BCCM accepts almost all types of biological material except plant seeds and plant tissue cultures.
Patented strains are preserved separately from the public collection. Access to this material and related information is rigorously controlled. The use of multiple state-of-the-art preservation methods (e.g. freeze drying and cryopreservation over liquid N2), together with storage of duplicates at a second location, guarantees a very high degree of security.
The Budapest Treaty strongly advises the depositor to mention the scientific description and/or proposed taxonomic designation of the deposited organism. The BCCM collections have built up substantial expertise in techniques for molecular fingerprinting and can assist the depositor in making the scientific description and taxonomic designation. A broad range of identification and characterisation methods (AFLP®,PFGE, fatty acid profiling, etc.) is available.