Canada invests in bioactive research center

By Clarisse Douaud

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Functional foods, Canada, Agriculture

In a show of institutional support for the nutraceutical industry,
the Canadian government has announced a $2m Cdn plug for research
into identifying plant, animal and marine compounds that can
benefit health.

The funding is for development of the National Research Council Institute for Nutrisciences and Health (NRC-INH) on the University of Prince Edward Island campus. The fledgling center is a collaboration between federal agricultural agency scientists and university scientists.

The center is among many cropping up in Canada, with the aid of significant amounts of government funding towards research for this sector of foods.

"This is an exciting collaboration in a market of enormous potential,"​ said Peter MacKay, minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, of the NRC-INH.

Provinces in Atlantic Canada have secured special government funding in recent years following an ebb in the fishing industry that led to an economic slump in this region. This coincides with a federal push to bolster the agricultural sector as a whole - although particularly geared at the country's breadbasket provinces in the West.

As such, human capital and the byproducts of agricultural resources are bridging to find industry uses for certain compounds, and potentially prop up economically vulnerable sectors.

"It will start with the discovery and extraction of important bioactive compounds found in renewable resources, continue with research into the role they play in human and animal health, and on to the sustainable production of new crops and commercialization of functional foods and nutraceuticals,"​ said National Research Council president Dr. Pierre Coulombe.

The Richarson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals opened recently in the Western province of Manitoba. Its focus is the development of functional foods and nutraceuticals from Canadian prairie crops.

In the case of the NRC-INH, the effect of bioactives has been divided according to three targeted human conditions: neurological-disorders, obesity-related disorders and infection and immunity.

Up to 14 employees from the government's agricultural department, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), are be located in the new facility by 2009. Still under construction, the center will also serve as an 'incubator space' available for nutriscience industry start-ups.

"With Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada on board, research will span the full continuum, from discovery to commercialization,"​ said Coulombe.

Canada elected a conservative prime minister in January 2006 who ushered in a new funding era - with over $3.5 bn already promised to the agricultural sector that overwhelmingly gave its vote to the new administration.

"Canada's new government is committed to supporting research that benefits health and wellness and generate new opportunities for our agriculture and agri-food sector,"​ said MacKay.

Related topics: R&D

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