Industry linkage beefs up livestock nutrition

13 Feb 2012

University of Queensland (UQ) research into improving livestock feed has received a boost from two Australian government-funded industry engagement schemes. 

The Consulting and Research Division of UQ's main commercialisation company, UniQuest, helped an interdisciplinary team leverage an Enterprise Connect Researcher in Business (RiB) grant to secure an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant for working with Bioproton Pty Ltd. 

The team was led by Professor Kirill Alexandrov from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) and Associate Professor Stephen Mahler from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN). 

The discovery and development of improved enzymes for feedstock supplements, and their subsequent nutritional and environmental impacts, is a key outcome of the funded research. 

Associate Professor Mahler said the project had both environmental and commercial benefits. 

“Growth in global food demand is placing enormous pressure on the global agricultural sector to deliver safe, efficient and environmentally sustainable food to meet demands of current and future generations," Associate Professor Mahler said. 

"These grants have allowed us to investigate new approaches to accelerate the production and analysis of new generation enzymes. 

“With enzyme-based supplements, farm animals excrete less phosphorus. 

"A high phytate burden in soil causes eutrophication of surrounding ponds and waterways on industrial farming sites, leading to algae blooms and destruction of marine life. 

“By developing livestock feed enzymes with superior characteristics that can be added economically to animal food, we can help farmers achieve more productive and environmentally sustainable farming.” 

Associate Professor Mahler said that the experience of working with an industry client on a global challenge was particularly rewarding. 

“As a researcher, the opportunity to move from fully funded industry research, to subsidised research through the RiB grant, and then attract an ARC Linkage project has been a valuable professional development exercise," he said. 

"It has also allowed the AIBN to achieve one of its key objectives, which is to work closely with industry to bring commercial reality to scientific endeavours.” 

The partnership has also achieved goals for Bioproton, a company established in Brisbane 18 years ago to manufacture and market pharmaceuticals and agribiochemicals. 

“Working with the University to establish an all-in-vitro platform for protein synthesis and analysis means we can resolve a major bottleneck in protein engineering,” Bioproton director Henrik Von Hellens said. 

“The world-class scientific infrastructure at The University of Queensland and close proximity to rapidly growing Asia-Pacific markets were key considerations for relocating our company's head-office, product development and manufacturing operations to Brisbane in 1993. 

“This approach will deliver a novel tool for rapid engineering and biophysical analysis of proteins with much higher throughput and lower cost than presently possible. 

"While this represents a competitive edge for Bioproton, there are wider implications. 

“Accelerating the speed and precision with which recombinant proteins can be engineered could transform the biotechnology, ‘green' chemistry and food industries. 

"Developing new and novel enzymes with applications in fields other than animal nutrition is also important to our research plans.” 

UniQuest Managing Director David Henderson said the project highlighted the value of an interdisciplinary approach to addressing key issues facing particular industries. 

“It's another example of how university research is having a positive impact on the industries which are contributing to Australia's strong economy," he said. 

"We are proud to have played a connective role in optimising the outcomes of publicly-funded scientific research and industry R&D.” 

Animal nutrition has an estimated worldwide market size of US$551 million. 

Although the current market is driven by protein pharmaceuticals that account for over US$160 billion in sales annually, use of recombinant proteins in the food and chemical industry is growing rapidly. 

It is projected to reach market volume of $130 billion by 2012 and account for 10 per cent of sales within the chemical industry. 

Media enquiries: Leanne Wyvill +61 7 3365 4037, 0409 767 199 or 

About UniQuest Pty Limited 

Established by The University of Queensland in 1984, UniQuest is widely recognised as one of Australia's largest and most successful university commercialisation groups, benchmarking in the top tier of technology transfer worldwide. From an intellectual property portfolio of 1,500+ patents it has created over 60 companies, and since 2000 UniQuest and its start-ups have raised more than $400 million to take university technologies to market. Annual sales of products using UQ technology and licensed by UniQuest are running at $3 billion. UniQuest now commercialises innovations developed at The University of Queensland and its commercialisation partner institutions: the University of Wollongong, University of Technology Sydney, James Cook University, University of Tasmania, Mater Medical Research Institute, and Queensland Health. UniQuest also provides access to an expansive and exclusive network of independent academics to tailor a consulting or project R&D solution to meet the diverse needs of industry and government, facilitating some 500 consulting, expert opinion, testing, and contract research services each year. UniQuest is also a leading Australasian provider of international development assistance recognised for excellence in technical leadership, management and research. Working with agencies such as AusAID, NZAID, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, UniQuest has developed and implemented more than 400 projects in 60+ countries throughout the Pacific, South-East Asia, the Indian sub-continent and Africa. 

About Bioproton Pty Ltd 
Bioproton is an Australian based biotechnology company with core business in developing; manufacturing and marketing high quality feed enzyme supplements. The company was founded in 1984 in Finland. Bioproton has a global marketing and distribution network covering Africa, Asia, Europe, Russia, Middle East, North and South America. Customers can be supplied from facilities in Brisbane, Australia or Atlanta, USA. 

About the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology 
The University of Queensland's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) is an integrated multi-disciplinary research institute bringing together the skills of world-class researchers in the areas of bioengineering and nanotechnology. It is home to 19 research groups working at the interface of the biological, chemical and physical science to alleviate current problems in human health and environmental issues. The institute has three key areas that collectively distinguish it from other institutes in the country, namely AIBN's: research excellence; industry focus; and dynamic research environment. These characteristics focus AIBN research efforts on developing new products, processes and devices for improving human health and quality of life. In this way the institute goes beyond basic research to promote and develop the growth of innovative industries, which will benefit the Queensland and Australian economies. The AIBN proudly acknowledges the financial support of Atlantic Philanthropies, the Queensland State Government and the University of Queensland toward the construction of the A$75 million AIBN research facility. 

About the Institute for Molecular Bioscience 
The University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) is recognised nationally and internationally as one of Australia's leading research institutes. It was established in 2000 and houses around 400 research staff and research students with an annual budget in the order of around A$90 million. IMB researchers work on a wide range of human diseases, from early childhood developmental disorders to infectious diseases, diabetes and kidney disease. Its labs are engaged in basic or discovery-level research aimed at understanding the normal function of genes, molecules and cells in our bodies and identifying what goes wrong in disease. IMB scientists also carry out very directed research aimed at finding, testing and developing new drugs to treat human diseases. The Institute has major research programs in pain, cancer and infection.