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A project led by Deakin University’s Professor Colin Barrow that could give Australian access to a $5 billion international market has received significant funding under the Federal Government’s Australia-India Strategic Research Fund.
The project will look at developing more efficient but less expensive methods for the production of omega-3 concentrates for functional foods, pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals.
The formal title of the project is: Novel marine-derived lipases and processing methods for the production of omega-3 concentrates for functional foods, pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals.
“Australia doesn’t yet have any big players in these fields just yet, but if we can develop efficient and inexpensive new methods, then we could certainly open up the doors for companies from here to become part of what is a huge international industry, worth around $5 billion,” said Professor Barrow, Director of the University’s Centre for Biotechnology, Chemistry and Systems Biology
“Omega-3 concentrates for pharmaceuticals alone are worth $1.5 billion, then when you add in concentrates for nutritional supplements and functional foods, you’re getting close to a $5 billion industry.”
“The current methodologies are expensive and also damaging to the oils because of the use of high temperatures and environmentally unfriendly additives. We believe we can come up with something that is both less damaging and that costs a lot less.”
The genesis of the project came last year when Professor Barrow visited India as part of delegation under DIRI, the Deakin India Research Initiative.
“I gave a paper while in India, as did Dr N. Madhusudhana Rao from India’s Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, and we began talking afterwards and it seemed that we shared similar interests,” Professor Barrow said.
“So we applied for this grant and I am very pleased to say the Australian Government has seen fit to fund it. The potential is just enormous!”
The Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) was established in 2006 to facilitate and support science and technology research cooperation between Australia and India.
It is Australia’s single largest bilateral science and research fund. Australia has committed a total of $65 million to the Fund with the Indian Government providing matching funding.
"India is a strong research nation in its own right and a rising scientific power,” said Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr.
“Both countries have much to gain from collaboration in science and technology.”
Deakin University’s DVC (Research), Professor Lee Astheimer, led the DIRI delegation to India last year.
“This is a great result for Professor Barrow, and for Deakin,” she said. “Our University is serious about expanding its research activities in India, one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
“Our delegation last year opened up many new opportunities for Deakin to collaborate with research groups in India, working on projects that have real benefits to the broad community in terms of helping raise standards of living and also opening up new opportunities for Australian businesses in India.
“It is pleasing even at this early stage to see tangible outcomes from that visit.”