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M. Cristina de Almagro and José Antonio Moreno,

Laboratorios Ordesa leads a 7M€ project to find alternative protein sources

Laboratorios Ordesa is leading the PROTECCIÓN project, which was created to develop new non-animal protein sources, with more than €7 million in funding from the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI) through the CIEN programme. The research will be coordinated by Dr Antonio Moreno from the company’s R&D centre at the Barcelona Science Park, and will include collaboration from numerous companies, universities and public and private centres.

The PROTECCIÓN project will begin with the nutritional and structural characterisation of new alternative proteins, both in their original and processed states. These new sources will be developed from plants, fungi and insects. Furthermore, they will develop a new technology, wet extrusion, intended to give these sources textures as similar to meat and fish as possible.

Plus, the project will seek to add different compounds to improve the functionality of the new foods. “We will study the impact these new functionalised proteins have on the immune system and metabolic processes associated with its modulation. So, we’re not only looking for alternatives to more traditional sources of protein, but also to get added benefits throughout the process”, explains Dr José Antonio Moreno, head of Basic Research in the Biotechnology Department at Laboratorios Ordesa and coordinator of the project.

A tool to predict bioefficiency

There will also be a second part of the project, taking advantage of all the data obtained through assessing digestibility, bioaccessibility, bioactivity and technological characterisation of the new protein sources, as well as their immunomodulatory action, to generate food bioefficiency predictive models (FBPM).

Finally, the FBPM will be verified and extrapolated to metabolic pathologies with associated immune alterations, as well as creating isolated bioactive ingredients to extrapolate the use of the FBPM to the whole food sector. “With this research project, we hope to obtain a tool that will allow us to predict the bioefficiency and functionality of these new foods, so we can facilitate future development of both these foods and other new products”, adds Dr Moreno.

A very powerful public-private partnership

Laboratorios Ordesa is leading and coordinating this very important project, the Eurecat Technology Centre of Catalonia is providing scientific support and the FI Group, administrative support. The project will also feature six other independent companies: ADM-Biopolis, Industrias Lácteas Asturianas, Lagumar, Mealfood Europe, Viscofan España, and Matadero José Calatayud e Hijos; four universities: University of Granada, University of Oviedo, Rovira i Virgili University, and University of Navarra; and three hospital research centres: Andalusian Public Foundation for Biomedical Research in Eastern Andalusia – Alejandro Otero (FIBAO), Institute for Health Research Aragón (IIS Aragón), and Health Research Institute of Santiago de Compostela (IDIS).

The Research Institute of Food Science of the Superior Council for Scientific Research (CIAL-CSIC), AINIA technology centre, and the Food Technology Centre (CTIC CITA) are three other public bodies participating in the project.

Commitment to innovation

R&D is one of the key pillars of Laboratorios Ordesa’s strategy: the company invests 3% of turnover each year in this area, and 60% of the products it sells come from internal R&D projects. The main trait of its innovation is that throughout the years it has developed all the phases of the research process, from obtaining and developing new ingredients to conducting preclinical and clinical trials on humans.

“We are firmly committed to research. This new project we are coordinating is another example of the company’s commitment to innovation”, states Laboratorios Ordesa general manager Anna Ferret.

The company has a research centre in the Barcelona Science Park, one of the country’s first, where it carries out research projects in collaboration with other organisations.