TWO GALICIAN RESEARCHERS CREATE ENRICHED FOODS FROM INVASIVE ALGAE
Beatriz Gullón and Pablo García, from Orense (Galicia), are working on obtaining antioxidants, proteins and polysaccharides from Sargassum muticum, an invasive macroalgae present on the coasts of Galicia and Portugal
The objective of ValBioSea is to extract bioactive compounds to develop functional foods, incorporating "the extracts into a food matrix, such as a dairy product"
The enormous potential of algae would also open up the range of applications to other fields such as cosmetics or pharmaceuticals
The ValBioSea project aims to transform the food sector by extracting bioactive compounds from invasive algae, present on the coasts of Galicia and Portugal, to create functional foods -those that naturally or enriched have a positive effect on health and reduce the risk of contracting certain diseases.
This project, which is currently being accelerated in the Sherpa Journeys entrepreneurship support program, focuses on the recovery of proteins, dietary fiber or phenolic compounds from Sargassum muticum. An initiative that responds to the growing demand for healthy food and the use of waste. And it does so from a sustainable perspective with the focus on algae.
The promoters of this initiative are Beatriz Gullón (Ourense, 1980), a Ramón y Cajal researcher, and Pablo García del Río (Ourense, 1992), a postdoctoral researcher. Both work at the University of Vigo in the recovery of different by-products of agro-industrial origin or invasive species to obtain bioactive compounds or biofuels.
Beneficial health effects
"Today, consumers are increasingly aware of the relationship between diet and health, showing a greater preference for products of natural origin," explains Beatriz Gullón. Therein lies the potential of a project that starts from marine biomass to obtain multiple beneficial compounds for health. Several studies suggest the antioxidant, anticancer or anti-inflammatory properties of algae compounds, qualities that have aroused the interest of the food or pharmaceutical industry.
The line of work of the researchers involves "incorporating the extracts into a food matrix, such as a dairy product". Algae are rich in protein, dietary fiber or phenolic compounds, so the extraction of these elements and their addition to certain foods could be an important complement to a healthy diet.
New opportunities in cosmetics or pharmaceuticals
The enormous potential of algae would also open up the range of applications to other fields such as cosmetics or pharmaceuticals. In fact, recalls the researcher, "there are already creams that incorporate algae extracts with certain beneficial properties at the dermal level in their formulation." This project also aims to create new job opportunities in the field of biobased products, with highly qualified jobs for biologists and engineers.
After a year dedicated to ValBioSea, and having evaluated the potential of different solvents for the extraction of antioxidant compounds, Beatriz Gullón and Pablo García are now focused on studying the purification of these extracts. Thanks to Sherpa do Mar they have managed to "have a first contact with the business world, helping us to be able to evaluate the techno-economic potential of algae in the current market", they underline.
About Sherpa do Mar
Sherpa do Mar is a project integrated into the INTERREG VA Spain-Portugal Cross-Border Cooperation Program (POCTEP) 2014-2020, co-financed 75% by ERDF funds, whose purpose is to launch a cross-border entrepreneurship network in the marine-maritime field and blue economy, through the Sherpa Journeys program, which favors the generation of employment and the increase in business competitiveness through the promotion of technology-based companies.
The project is led by the University of Vigo, through the REDE research group, Campus do Mar and the R&D Office, and the Vigo Free Zone Consortium, the Galician Innovation Agency (GAIN) and the universities of Santiago de Compostela and A Coruña. On behalf of Portugal, the Asprela Technology Transfer Association (UPTEC), the U. Porto-Innovação of the University of Porto (UPIN), the Interdisciplinary Center for Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR) and the Fórum Oceano-Association of Sea Economy.