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Milk's Life-Enhancing Properties Pays off

Pursuit Of Milk's Life-Enhancing Properties Starting To Pay Off

LactoPharma Research Consortium, one of four research consortia whose access to around $33.5 million of Government funding was announced today, is making good progress in its groundbreaking research into the biomedical benefits of milk.

General Manager Tony McKenna says LactoPharma's researchers have already developed useful leads and registered provisional patents.

Dr McKenna says if the early signs of success bear fruit, the results of the research could be commercialised through either the business units of the consortium's major backer, Fonterra Co-operative Group Ltd, or by licensing the technology to other users, or by forming spin-off companies. "The properties of milk which make it such a valuable food for infants, such as its ability to feed bone growth and strengthen the immune system, are those we are most interested in. They can be important at any stage of life."

LactoPharma, a joint venture between Fonterra and Auckland UniServices Ltd (the commercial research arm of The University of Auckland) was formed in May and Government funding for the venture was announced in the Budget that month. The deal was signed in November. The Foundation for Research Science and Technology (FRST) will provide $2 million a year for seven years, matching Fonterra's contribution dollar-for-dollar.

Dr McKenna, who is based at the Fonterra Research Centre in Palmerston North, says milk contains crucial components of value as both "nutraceuticals" or functional foods - food items offering both health benefits beyond their nutritional value - and ethical medicines - those that have passed through the rigorous, time-consuming and costly US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) drug testing regime.

"The markets to which any discoveries will be directed are very large and growing. For example, the global market for functional foods was estimated at $80 billion in 2000, and the market for ethical drugs at $915 million in 1999."

LactoPharma's world-renowned research team includes scientists at the Fonterra Research Centre (formerly the NZ Dairy Research Institute) in Palmerston North, The University of Auckland's Schools of Biological Science and Medicine, and The University of Otago's Biological Investigation Group in Wellington.

The University of Auckland team working on LactoPharma is led by Professor Garth Cooper, Professor Ian Reid, Associate Professor Geoffrey Krissansen and Associate Professor Jill Cornish.

The University of Otago is represented by Dr Paul Davis.

The Fonterra Research Centre team includes Angela Rowan, Dr Neill Haggarty, Dr Satyendra Ram, Dr Linda Schollum, Dr Julian Reid and Dr Kate Palmano.

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