NCKU transfers microalgal docosahexaenoic acid production technology to Vedan Biotechnology

NCKU President, Academician Michael Ming-Chiao Lai, signed Technology Transfer Agreement in this morning with Mr. Tou-Hsiung Yang, Chairman of Vedan International (Holding) Ltd, witnessed by Vedan Biotechnology President Shih-An (Raymond) Yang and the inventor, Prof. Huey-Lang Yang of the NCKU Institute of Biotechnology. This agreement marks a successful transfer of NCKU's microalgal DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) production technology, developed by Prof. Yang’s Aquatic Animal Bio-Medicine R&D Team (AABM Team), to Vedan Biotechnology, a subsidiary company of Vedan International.

President Lai commented that the collaboration between NCKU and Vedan is a good example of industry-academia cooperation. President Lai also praised that Prof. Yang has not only made breakthroughs in aquiculture and biotechnology industry and great contributions to ecology and human health, but also demonstrated his great creativity in producing DHA from microalgae, instead of fishes and marine animals. President Lai also shared his joy with press that Prof. Yang had recently been recognized for his excellent contribution to aquiculture and presented with the award - “2009 TWAS Prize in the Agricultural Sciences” from The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) supported by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It is certainly a great honor for NCKU.

Chairman Tou-Hsiung Yang felt very excited to have speedy development in cooperation with NCKU for the first time. He also highly commended the research capability of NCKU’s AABM Team, especially on the rapid isolation of indigenous DHA producing microalgae “BL 10” and associative research development on DHA production. Chairman Yang promised to successfully marketing the BL 10 produced DHA with Vedan’s 46 years of marketing experience in biotechnical products. Chairman Yang indicated that Vedan is always looking forward to having more opportunities in collaboration with NCKU in the future.

Prof. Huey-Lang Yang commented that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a carboxylic acid with a 22-carbon chain, is commonly known as a kind of fish oil (Omega 3 DHA). DHA is essential to humans, for example, in brain health and prevention of cardiovascular disease, etc. However, our body could not produce any DHA even though it is so much needed. Hence, DHA must be derived from other sources, such as fishes and marine mammals. Indeed, DHA is not excreted in these fishes and marine mammals. Instead, DHA is largely produced by microalgaes and concentrated in the fishes and marine animals through food chains. Unfortunately, trace of toxins, such as methyl mercury or dioxins, are conjointly present with DHA through food chains as well.

DHA is an important nutrient for growth and development of human, animal and fish from youth to elder. DHA does not only improve the growth of babies and young child’s brain, retinal development, but also prevents cardiovascular disease, depression, Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic diseases. Therefore, a successful research on DHA-rich microalgae by Dr. I-Min Chen, an Assistant Professor of NCKU and co-investigator of research project on “DHA producing microalgae strain - BL 10” has pounded great significance to the development of human health and medicine. As getting scarcer and scarcer in ocean fishes and marine animals, a conventional supply of DHA, an invention in a new source of DHA is important not only to ecological conservation of ocean, but also to supply a large number of vegetarian ethnic foods by algae from the plant.

Moreover, in the conventional extraction and fermentation method of DHA from fish oils, a risk in mercury or other chemical pollutants is somewhat difficult to be avoided, as well as provision of clean and pollution free DHA is hard to be achieved. This new discovery from DHA-rich microalgae definitely improves the quality of health food products and the health of all people; moreover it will be absolutely the best substitutes of fish oil in the future.

In addition, The AABM Team has won the Best Poster Award with topic “Isolation and characterization of Taiwanese Thraustochytrid species: screening of strains for docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) production” in the conference of Aquaculture Europe, September, 2008. This is the first time to receive the award of Aquatic Bio-tech research area in Taiwan. “Indeed, the contamination, such as alkyl mercury and dioxins, commonly found with DHA production stimulated us to search for new ways to produce DHA”, said Prof. Chen.

Recently, to cope with the drastic changes that are taking place in the global economy and enhance Taiwan’s industrial development, Taiwan government announced a plan to make a budget of NT$ 42 billions to develop medicine and health care, biotechnology industry, through a special program as “Diamond Action Plan for Biotech Takeoff”. That is, the biotechnology and heath care related industry have become more and more important emerging industries in the world.

SOURCE National Cheng Kung University

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