The symposium included three main sessions: ‘Microbial Resources and Their Possibilities’, ‘Microbial Resources in Asian and the role of BRC’ and a lecture by Yoshimi Benno, former head of the Microbe Division / Japan Collection of Microorganisms (JCM), RIKEN BRC . In the first of these, five speakers introduced the latest results of cutting-edge research in basic and ecological microbiology capable of delivering benefits to the environment, such as solving the problem of marine oil pollution, and probiotic lactic acid bacteria related to human health.
Following this in the second section, researchers from the China General Microbial Culture Collection Center, the Microbial Genomics and Applications Center in South Korea and the Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research reported on microbial resources in their respective countries. The Chinese delegation introduced work being carried out on an information network among the culture collection of Asian countries, while the topic of isolation of microbes from the environment and their meta genomic analysis formed the basis of the contribution from South Korea. Finally, the Thai contingent introduced some aspects of their recent activities in microbial research and corresponding applications.
A common thread linking all the presentations was the vital role played by the JCM in Asia, and the importance of the Asian Network on the Microbial Research (ANMR) project, in which RIKEN was the core institution in fiscal 1995–99, in forming stronger relationships among Asian countries.
In the last section, Yoshimi Benno, head of the Microbe Division / JCM until his retirement at the end of March 2009, gave a lecture on his long career as a scientist and administrator, including his 36 years of research on the function of intestinal bacteria, during which time he made huge contributions to microbial taxonomy using both culture-based methods and molecular techniques. Benno also looked back on developments in the organization and capabilities of the RIKEN BRC, including the successful and smooth integration of the JCM into the BRC 2004, the selection of the JCM as a core ‘General Microbes’ facility of the National BioResource Project by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and the development of an ISO 9001-quality management system. In addition to reflecting on the past, Benno also spoke of the future, talking about the possibility of developing a new health check system using culture-independent analysis of human gut microbiota.