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Commercialising natural ingredients

shiitake mushroom

27 Feb 2014

Continuing its collaboration with Acumentia Consulting and Vitalsix, SCI's Food Group held its second joint event on 11 February 2014 at Reading University's Science and Technology Centre. The event attracted over 40 guests who gathered to hear three leading experts talk about their research and business in the context of the business and science behind commercialising natural ingredients for food and pharmaceuticals.

The evening opened with Dr Lisa Methven of the Sensory Science Centre at Reading University and SCI Food Group committee member. Lisa gave a very interesting and informative talk about the use of umami in taste and flavour enhancement and spoke about research into consumers' acceptability of foods with the aim of improving the palatability of foods, especially with older adults who often lose their sense of taste and smell.

Lisa was followed by Andrew Gallagher, R&D Programme Manager at Phynova, a company based in Oxford and Beijing which investigates plants as a source of health products. Plants have a range of biologically active molecules to defend themselves from diseases and predators as well as enhancing pollination, and often a number of molecules will act together. Phynova take this approach with their research, and instead of looking for the 'silver bullet' try to put together a 'magic shotgun' in the quest to develop patent-protected pharmaceuticals, over-the-counter drugs, cosmetic and functional ingredients.

Andrew used examples of Phynova products to illustrate the range of end-uses. IminoNorm is used for blood sugar level control and acts by modifying pathways for sugar metabolism - inhibiting enzymes and reducing glucose uptake and utilisation. Melokinex is undergoing trials for treatment of postoperative ileus (POI) - a temporary impairment of gastrointestinal function following abdominal surgery, and Andrew explained the progress.

Lastly, Andrew discussed traditional Chinese medicines (TCM) and the impact of the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive which came into effect in April 2011. The Directive established an approval process for herbal medicines in the EU. Each EU state has to set up a registration scheme for manufactured TCM. Phynova believes that TCM offer significant commercial opportunities, and is progressing several through this process and associated hurdles.

Dr John Fry closed the presentations by talking about the development of Stevia, the natural sweetener. John was principal consultant with Cargill and gave insights into the research and business development of Stevia. He talked about some of the surprises and hurdles they encountered and still continue to do so, with EU and US legislation not being equal and so preventing the same product being sold in both markets.

The evening finished with refreshments and a chance for networking.

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