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Chemistry award for supercritical extraction

Media Release
03 December 2009

IRL scientist scoops chemistry award for supercritical extraction

IRL Group Manager, Integrated Bioactive Technologies, Dr Owen Catchpole has won the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry Fonterra Prize for Industrial and Applied Chemistry.

Dr Catchpole pioneered and established supercritical extraction as an industrial process in New Zealand. Supercritical extraction uses high-pressure carbon dioxide to produce high-value extracts from a wide range of biological materials.

The process can be used with low-value biomass such as fish waste to produce high-value extracts rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Dr Catchpole is the programme leader for IRL’s $2 million per annum Foundation for Research Science and Technology (FRST) - funded research programme “High-value Lipids and Supercritical Extraction Technologies”.

Dr Catchpole says he was honoured to receive the award. “It is recognition of the excellent work that the supercritical extraction team has put into creating new technologies and products of benefit to NZ industry, particularly Fonterra and Nutrizeal. It also recognises the investment made by both FRST and IRL into supporting this area of research and development, which we hope will lead to even greater impact in the future.”

He has invented 13 patented or patent-pending supercritical extraction processes, which have led to commercial success for the companies that have licensed them. Dr Catchpole has also worked with some of New Zealand’s most innovative companies including Fonterra, Nutrizeal, SCENZ/Trilogy, Living Nature and Mende-Biotech and assisted them to add value to natural biomass through the application of supercritical extraction technology.

In New Zealand, product and supercritical process revenue is estimated to be around $15–20 million per annum, and is expected to rise to $150 million p.a. by 2017.

Dr Catchpole is internationally recognised as an expert in his specialist areas of supercritical extraction technology, including the extraction of lipids. These substances are part of a large and diverse group of naturally occurring organic compounds that are now the new frontier of bioactive compounds for human and animal health care.

IRL Chief Executive Shaun Coffey says Dr Catchpole’s work has assisted IRL to reach out to industry.

“Supercritical extraction is a key technology platform for IRL’s Integrated Bioactive Technologies team. I particularly commend Dr Catchpole for his commitment to technology transfer which has resulted in significant benefits for several New Zealand firms. The development of a portable supercritical extraction facility that can be leased to companies has helped accelerate this development.”


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