International cooperation and legal issues

The BCCM consortium has developed long term cooperative bands with partners worldwide. Collaborations are built both between the BCCM consortium as a whole or between individual BCCM collection and partners abroad.

The objective of BCCM is the mutual enrichment of the holdings and expertise of every partner through capacity building programmes and research projects, seeking ex situ conservation and valorisation of microbial genetic resources.

Developments of new international rules have greatly impacted on the operations of culture collections. Since 1983 BCCM has proactively developed legal and technical solutions to abide by the evolving legal framework, especially the Convention on Biological Diversity1 (CBD) and the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing to the Convention on Biological Diversity (Nagoya Protocol)2.  BCCM combines its approach to these international agreements with other relevant rules, mainly the TRIPs Agreement3 and the Budapest Treaty4. In this context, BCCM is also recognised as an International Depository Authority entitled to accept microbial material for the purposes of patent procedure.

BCCM participates in and initiates collaborations to develop a coherent set of legal as well as administrative instruments and recommendations facilitating access to microbial genetic resources. Also, secured access to microbial material and reliable data integration is a prerequisite for cumulative research, underpinning bioscience. Therefore BCCM is actively seeking balanced cooperation with providers as well as users of microbial genetic resources and related information.

BCCM launched the concerted action ‘MOSAICC’ (Micro-Organisms Sustainable use and Access regulation International Code of Conduct). It translates the principles of the CBD into practical procedures. Funded by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Research, MOSAICC is a voluntary code of conduct. Regularly updated, the MOSAICC project gets input from multiple socio-economic partners.  Predating the Nagoya Protocol negotiations, MOSAICC is now revised through the TRUST project to set up a TRransparent User-friendly System of Transfer for Science & Technology to enforce the Nagoya Protocol when it will soon enter into force. 

Considering their mission of providing for scientifically, technically but also legally fit-for-use material and related information and to protect the rights of their partners the BCCM collection were among the first in Europe to format their legal policy and set Material Transfer Agreement as general conditions of distribution of the microbial material to customers worldwide. It has also defined its policy of acquisition of microbial resources to balance the legitimate expectation of depositors in terms of scientific or commercial return for their contribution to science with common public societal benefits.

BCCM collections have contacts worldwide, through bilateral and multilateral projects. Collaborations include for instance partners from the People’s Republic of China, in the framework of a bilateral agreement and according to the principles of article 7 of the CBD, promoting the identification and monitoring of biodiversity. Similarly, in the framework of another bilateral agreement with the Kingdom of Morocco, BCCM has contributed to the setup of the Moroccan Coordinated Collections of Microorganisms, as an effective implementation of the directives of the CBD article 9 on the ex situ conservation of biological resources. These are only two examples of many connections on all seven continents.

With regard to the general global evolution of biological resources centres, in which bioinformatics is essential, BCCM seeks the development and optimal use of ICT instruments designed to facilitate exchange of microbial genetic resources, related data and information, technology and know-how. Therefore BCCM has participated to numerous projects aiming at boosting the E-management and study of microbiological resources. It started with the CABRI project (Common Access to Biological Resources and Information) to launch a first common public web-based catalogue at European level and continues now with the contribution to the ambitious WFCC programme of Global Catalogue of Microorganisms.

In the European Union BCCM participated in successive structuring projects for culture collections networking towards the latest programme aiming at a permanent European research infrastructure dedicated to microbial resources called MIRRI, for Microbial Resources Research Infrastructure.

Furthermore, BCCM - as a consortium or through its individual collections - is involved in different forums and networks; it participates in international organisations such as the European Culture Collections' Organisation (ECCO). Recognised by its peers for its specific experience in networking management, the BCCM consortium has already seen two of its staff member elected as President of the World Federation for Culture Collections (WFCC) and still contributes to UNESCO Life sciences programmes, including the Microbial Resources Centres Network (MIRCEN).

A strong national anchorage in research institutions and a broad scientific network worldwide makes BCCM stronger for answering the future needs of bio-economy, being reliable interface between public and private scientists, at home and abroad. 


1 CBD (Rio de Janeiro, 5 June 1992). This convention lays down new principles governing, among others, conservation, sustainable use as well as access to genetic resources and fair sharing of benefits arising from the use of these resources.

2 Nagoya Protocol Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

3 Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Marrakech, 15 April 1994). It develops standards and principles concerning the availability, scope and use of trade-related intellectual property rights, and sets up rules for effective and appropriate enforcement of these rights applying also to the use of biological resources.

4 Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the Deposit of Micro-organisms for the Purposes of Patent Procedure (Budapest, 28 April 1977). It sets practical rules for patent procedure involving micro-organisms.