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New research to investigate digestive health benefits

A research team led by Dr Dulantha Ulluwishewa from AgResearch Ltd has received an investment of $100,000 from the High-Value Nutrition (HVN) National Science Challenge and industry partner Quantec Limited for a new study to investigate whether a novel bovine milk fraction (known as Immune Defence Proteins, or IDP®), can deliver digestive health benefits by improving the intestinal barrier.

This funding investment will aid insight-driven product development linked to scientific validation, and will add value to a New Zealand product. The aim of developing high-value products and ingredients from dairy products is closely aligned with the broader government strategy of transitioning from volume to value, as set out in the Growing Innovative Industries in New Zealand Strategy, released in July 2019.

Quantec Limited is a Waikato-based company specialising in high-value bioactives from natural products. They have developed, manufactured and commercialised a natural milk-derived ingredient called IDP®, which consists of a unique blend of over 50 proteins, with demonstrated anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-microbial properties.

In the Chinese gut health market, consumers are looking for products that support digestive and immune health, while also being ‘natural’. IDP® has been used as a key ingredient to develop food and beverage (F&B) products in the form of milk powder sachets and protein beverages that are currently sold in China and other parts of Asia.

“If our findings demonstrate digestive health benefits of IDP®, Quantec would proceed to develop prototype products, followed by human studies to establish proof-of-principle,” says Dr Dulantha Ulluwishewa.

“This project directly contributes to product development linked to scientific validation and if successful will add value to New Zealand products and the F&B business, which is in alignment with HVN’s mission to grow the science excellence and knowledge that New Zealand needs to create and deliver food that people choose to stay healthy and well,” says Joanne Todd, HVN Challenge Director.

“Quantec has proven expertise in the development and commercialisation of uniquely New Zealand products for the Chinese market,” she says. “To continue their growth trajectory and achieve export and sales targets in a competitive Asian market, Quantec have identified a need to develop F&B products with validated digestive health benefits.”

The HVN Challenge is a mission-led programme of innovative research into the health and wellbeing attributes of New Zealand produced foods for our major export markets. The Challenge will over the next five years fund a number of projects through a competitive contestable funding process, and has recently approved two other innovative projects:

Novel research to study the health benefits of Greenshell™ mussels awarded further funding

$1.1M to be invested into Māori-led research to establish two new highly functional natural foods

Background Information:

The HVN research priority area of Healthy Digestion has a focus on functional gut disorders such Irritable Bowel Syndrome, because these conditions are recognised by some regulators in the context of health claims to allow extrapolation of clinical studies to the general population.

There are several lines of evidence linking an impaired intestinal barrier to functional gut disorders. Because the proposed project aims to investigate the potential of Quantec's core ingredient IDP® to improve intestinal barrier function as a mechanism of alleviating symptoms of functional gut disorders, this research directly aligns with the aim of the HVN Digestive Health programme to identify F&B strategies to support healthy digestion.

This body of work aligns well with the mission of HVN as it helps build the science and knowledge needed to produce and export a uniquely New Zealand food that people would choose to support their health and wellbeing. This HVN funding will support a New Zealand F&B company to develop and export a novel, high-value food designed to support digestive health, and thus help grow New Zealand's F&B export revenue, in line with HVN's Strategic Plan.

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