UdL produces pork meat with less saturated fat

Researchers from Lleida University (UdL) obtained pork meat with a lower proportion of saturated fat and a higher content in monounsaturated fatty acids. This meat is healthier, but it has also better organoleptic properties. Researchers from the School of Agrifood and Forestry Science and Engineering (ETSEA) identified a genetic variant in the promoter of the stearoyl-CoA desaturase gene, responsible for the conversion of stearic acid, a saturated fatty acid, into oleic acid, a monounsaturated one. The presence of this variant in the promoter enhances the fat desaturation activity of the enzyme. This also increases the levels of palmitoleic acid in intramuscular fat.

The use of this genetic variant in commercial genetic improvement programmes is under a protection process. At present, these results have been published in the open access journal Plos One.

The Unit of Pig Genetic Improvement of ETSEA has been working for 12 years in the improvement of Duroc pork meat, which is characterized by a high degree of fat infiltration. For this reason, Duroc pork meat is very appreciated to elaborate high quality cured products. The effect of the reported genetic variant has been observed in pigs from all controlled generations since 2001, even when they were bred in different farms or fed different diets.


Knowledge transfer: from basic research to industry and the markets

Recently, the swiss company Biocartis and Hospital del Mar announced their license agreement that enables Biocartis to develop a new colon cancer test. The test is based on research results published by Dr Montagut and her team in Nature medicine on 2012. They described a specific epidermal growth factor receptor mutation which makes colorectal tumours resistant to cetuximab, whilst they remain sensitive to treatment with panitumumab. This is a clear example of how basic research results derive into benefits for the society, in this case by allowing better and personalised therapy for colon cancer according to each patient’s characteristics. Often it is perceived that basic research results have scarce or none practical applicability. And sometimes this is true, as basic research seeks knowledge as an objective itself, independently from market parameters. But fundamental research also leads to innovative and applicable new ideas. In biomedical research, for example, better knowledge of molecular mechanisms involved in pathologies enables finding new and more efficient therapeutic alternatives.

Catalan researchers publish at a comparable level to other European countries of similar size, such as the Netherlands or Denmark. However, transfer is one of the debilities of our research system, and when we compare Catalonia with these countries on patents per million of inhabitants or the ratio publications/patents, our results are not so good. Therefore, we should not forget basic research, it is necessary to foster it and provide stability and continuity to research projects, but at the same time knowledge transference has to be one of our priority objectives


Investment in R & D provides profits in the catalan food sector

Agromillora Iberia S.L. is a Catalan company based in Subirats (Alt Penedès) since 1986 is engaged in the production and marketing of high genetic quality of nursery plants. Today is considered the largest nursery in the world. The company market rootstock and grafted plants, and creates varieties especially designed for mechanized harvesting.

Since 1997, the company has invested heavily in R & D, establishing a fully equipped research center in Monistrol d’Anoia with the latest technological advances in the agriculture and food sector.

In 2012 it achieved sales of 28 million euros, with an annual growth of 15% in the past two years, thanks to international expansion and the creation of five laboratories for plant multiplication (Spain, USA, Turkey, Brazil and Chile).

The conference ‘Claiming entrepreneurial potential’ recently organized by the Consortium of the Zona Franca de Barcelona, the President of the company explained that the goal is to increase production and stop relying on subsidies because “the subsidized agriculture has no future” but it is essential to change the mentality and the way we do today.

Companies like this show the excellent results and the applicability of investments in R & D, as well as the continuing validity of the mentality that has always been known as the catalan businessman. The food industry is no exception


4 of the 33 Proof of Concept grants of the European Research Council go to catalan research goups

The European Research Council (ERC) has announced that 33 top researchers receive up to €150,000 each to bridge the gap between their basic research and marketable innovation. These ‘Proof of Concept’ grants are open to scientists who already hold ERC grants, and cover activities aimed at commercial and societal applications. Catalonia has obtained 4 of these grants in 2013, immediately after the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, with 6 grants each.


Photoactivated drugs

The European Research Council has granted an innovative research in the health area led by Pau Gorostiza of the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia. One of the main goals of current therapy is to reduce the side effects of drugs, especially to prevent the treatments led to an organ or body part can harm the rest of the body.

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