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2011 News

November 2011

BBSRC Case Study: The Story Behind “Super Broccoli”

When Beneforté 'super broccoli' was launched onto selected UK supermarket shelves in October 2011, it represented a special achievement for UK bioscience - a consumer-focused, nutritionally-enhanced product developed over more than two decades through collaboration between two BBSRC-supported research world-class institutes and a specialist technology transfer company, part-owned by BBSRC. 

Please click here for a link to the full article.

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October 2011

Beneforté Reaches Market in UK

PBL is delighted to announce that Beneforté Broccoli, derived from the work of Richard Mithen at the John Innes Centre and at The Institute of Food Research, is now on sale in UK shops. PBL has built the development partnerships with the seeds, farming and grocery industries to bring Beneforté to market.  The following statement was released at 01:00 am on 4 October 2011.

The new variety of broccoli with higher levels of a key phytonutrient is now available in UK shops thanks to experts working on both the biology of plants and the link between human nutrition and health. The new broccoli, which will be known as Beneforté, was developed from publicly-funded research at two of the UK's world-leading biological research institutes: the Institute of Food Research and the John Innes Centre.

Scientists at the two institutes, which receive strategic funding from the government-sponsored Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), are working to develop our understanding of what it is about broccoli that makes it a particularly healthy food.

The researchers used conventional breeding techniques to develop the new broccoli, which contains two to three times the level of the phytonutrient glucoraphanin than standard broccoli. Glucoraphanin is a beneficial chemical that is found naturally in broccoli and is thought to help explain the link between eating broccoli and lower rates of heart disease and some forms of cancer. Glucoraphanin also leads to a boost in the body’s antioxidant enzyme levels.

“Our research has given new insights into the role of broccoli and other similar vegetables in promoting health, and has shown how this understanding can lead to the development of potentially more nutritious varieties of our familiar vegetables”, said Professor Richard Mithen, of the Institute of Food Research. “Now there will also be something brand new for consumers to eat as a result of the discoveries we have made.”

British-grown Beneforté broccoli is now available in Marks and Spencer stores around the UK and will become more widely available in other supermarkets during summer 2012. 

Science Minister David Willetts said: 
"This is a fantastic achievement and testament to the quality of research we have in this country and its ability to drive growth. This excellent work has led to the development of a highly commercial food product that will be both grown and sold in the UK, giving a real boost to agriculture, our personal health and the economy." 

Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: 
"A body of evidence generated through years of independent public research has helped turn fundamental science into a new product. This is a great example of how our ever-improving understanding of biological processes in both plants and humans can lead, over time, to commercial innovation. What's really exciting about Beneforté is that it's something that comes from British scientific research and is available for anyone to buy in the shops and try for themselves.”

Research highlights – health benefits

Broccoli is the only commonly eaten vegetable that contains meaningful quantities of glucoraphanin. This naturally occurring compound is converted in the gut to the bioactive compound sulforaphane, which then circulates in the bloodstream. A large body of scientific evidence indicates that sulforaphane is likely to have beneficial effects such as reducing chronic inflammation, stopping uncontrolled cell division associated with early stages of cancer, and inducing antioxidant enzymes (1).

This research on sulforaphane could explain why people who eat a few portions of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli every week, have a lower risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease (2). Studies at IFR have already shown that eating the new broccoli results in two to four times the level of sulforaphane in the blood compared to normal broccoli (3).

In collaboration with the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, the IFR scientists found that men who ate a broccoli-rich diet experienced changes in the activity of genes associated with tumour survival and growth (4). These changes were consistent with studies that suggest men who eat broccoli-rich diets have a reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer (5). Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer for males in western countries.

1. Juge at al (2007) Cell Molecular Life Sciences 64, 1105-27.
2. Jeffery and Araya (2009) Phytochem Rev 8:283-298.
3. Gasper et al (2005) American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 82(6):1283-91. 
4. Traka et al (2008) PLoS One. 2008 Jul 2:3 (7):e2568. 
5. Kirsh et al (2007) Journal of the National Cancer Institute 99, 1200-9.

IFR and JIC Press Office 
Zoe Dunford     +44 (0)1603 255111     zoe.dunford@nbi.ac.uk
Andrew Chapple     +44 (0)1603 251490     andrew.chapple@nbi.ac.uk 

Rebecca McIntosh     +44 (0)1603 456500     rjm@pbltechnology.com

Please click here for a link to the press release on the IFR website.

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July 2011

Model Gut on Show for Ministerial Visit

The Model Gut business unit, owned and operated by PBL, yesterday was centre-stage during a visit to the NRP by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Dr Vince Cable. Dr Cable was in Norwich in the presence of regional business, political and scientific guests to officially open the NRP Innovation Centre. Following the official opening ceremony, the Secretary of State was shown around some of the outstanding new businesses that are leading the innovation agenda in the region. Richard Faulks of the Model Gut team, and Dr Martin Stocks of PBL, were on hand to meet the Secretary of State and explain the nature of the Model Gut’s unique technology and its tremendous value to the R&D efforts of both the Pharma and Food industries.

For more information, please contact Dr Martin Stocks.

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January 2011

Medicago selected to collaborate with IDRI on a multimillion dollar grant awarded to IDRI from the US Department of Defense

JIC / PBL technology aids in production of avian flu vaccine candidate

Medicago has been selected to collaborate with Infectious Disease Research Institute (“IDRI”) on a multimillion dollar grant awarded to IDRI by the US Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the proposed development of a single dose H5N1 influenza vaccine which could be rapidly and widely administered in the case of avian pandemic flu outbreak. 

Medicago is clinically trialling a vaccine to the H5N1 avian influenza virus, produced in part using innovations developed at the John Innes Centre. Medicago is using virus-like particles (VLPs) in plants to produce the vaccine. A protein expression system developed by Professor George Lomonossoff and Dr Frank Sainsbury is being used by Medicago, under a licence from PBL (the John Innes Centre’s technology transfer company), to produce large, commercial-scale accumulations of these VLPs in plants as part of the vaccine production process.

This US Department of Defense grant is for a Phase I clinical trial with an intradermal H5 vaccine in combination with IDRI's GLA adjuvant. The one year project combines Medicago's plant made H5 Virus-Like Particle vaccine with IDRI's vaccine adjuvant technology as well as a micro needle delivery device. These three technologies could enhance protection, reduce the amount of product required and simplify vaccine distribution and administration.

The CPMV Virus

The CPMV-HT system developed at the John Innes Centre uses elements of Cowpea Mosaic Virus to achieve high levels of heterologous protein expression in plants, without the need for virus replication. It greatly increases both the speed and efficiency of protein production in plants, without producing infectious virus particles, which is one reason why Medicago Inc have used this method of scale up production of vaccines to commercial levels. 

Medicago have also used the technology, a patent application for which has been filed by PBL, in the development of a vaccine against swine flu (H1N1).

Medicago published the results of its Phase I trials into the H5N1 vaccine in PLoS ONE

As part of the University of East Anglia’s BIO Open Lecture Series, The British Society for Immunology hosted a scientific seminar on 19 January 2011 by Professor George Lomonosoff, entitled “Turning diseases to commodity: use of a plant virus to produce vaccines and antibodies”. 

Please click here to see the full article.  For more information on CPMV-HT please click here or contact Dr Lars von Borcke.

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