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Could potatoes, tomatoes and saffron help fight disease?

Potatoes (c) James Hutton Institute
We will work to mine the wonderful diversity of natural compounds in potatoes for bio-activity against a range of degenerative conditions, as well as for potential pain relief.

As one of the world's most important food crops, potatoes have got everything you need to survive – but could they also help fight illness and alleviate pain? That’s the question a four-year, €8.5M scientific project by a multi-national consortium, including the James Hutton Institute, aims to answer. The project will investigate the potential of naturally occurring chemicals in potatoes, tomatoes and saffron to combat human diseases such as cancer and arteriosclerosis and ease the pain caused by various ailments. It also hopes to find sustainable ways of producing these chemicals, known as bioactive compounds.

Building on the recent identification of plants from the Solanaceae (such as potato, tomato, aubergine) and Iridaceae (such as saffron, crocus, freesia) families as promising sources of bioactive compounds for human health and the treatment of degenerative disease, the EU-funded DISCO project aims to further investigate these natural, sustainable sources and to fine-tune procedures to generate greater levels of, as well as extract, these bio-compounds.

Project co-ordinator Professor Paul Fraser, of the Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, said: “Despite notable scientific achievements there have been relatively little commercialisation or feasibility studies performed to date on the production of bio-compounds from renewable sources. Therefore one of our major objectives within DISCO is to address these issues and to create a framework that can act as a generic pipeline capable of taking discovery and innovation through application and validation, to translation and industrial valorisation.”

Commenting on the role of the James Hutton Institute in the project, Professor Derek Stewart, research leader, said: “Building on our expertise in potato research we will work with vibrant Scottish company SB Drug Discovery Ltd, to mine the wonderful diversity of natural compounds in wild and cultivated potato for bio-activity against a range of degenerative conditions, as well as for potential pain relief.”

The DISCO partners, which include 15 organisations from seven countries, aim to capitalise on their experience in metabolic engineering, hyper-production of high-value plant substances, and in bringing technology to the market.

Dr Mark Taylor, also from the James Hutton Institute, said: “The consortium is able to build on achievements funded by both Scottish Government and preceding EU projects to deliver scientific excellence with economic and societal impact.”

Notes to editors:

The project DISCO: “From DISCOvery to products: A next generation pipeline for the sustainable generation of high-value plant products” is a four-year collaborative project (2013-2017) with a value of €8.5M, of which €6.5 million is provided by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (FP7). The partners in DISCO are:

Royal Holloway and Bedford New College (Professor Paul D. Fraser)
James Hutton Institute (Professor Derek Stewart, Dr Mark Taylor)
SB Drug Discovery Limited (Dr Ian McPhee)

Fermented Product Partner SA (Professor Philippe Thonart)

Fundación Fraunhofer Chile Research (Dr Wolfgang Schuch)

Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology (Professor Ralph Bock)
Technische Universität Dortmund
(Professor Oliver Kayser)
European Research and Project Office GmbH (Dr Verena Peuser)
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma GmbH and Co.KG (Dr Hansjörg Hagels)

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Professor Joseph Hirschberg)
The Agricultural Research Organisation of Israel
– The Volcani Centre (Dr Efraim Lewinsohn)
IBR – Israeli Biotechnology Research Ltd. (Dr Fabien Havas)

Agenzia Nazionale Per Le Nuove Tecnologie, L’Energia E Lo Sviluppo Economico Sostenibile (Professor Giovanni Giuliano)
IGA Technology Services S.r.l.
(Dr Federica Cattonaro)

Proplanta S.r.l.
(Professor Carmen Socaciu)

Royal Holloway and Bedford New College
Professor Paul D. Fraser
Phone: +44 (0)1784 443894

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Printed from /news/could-potatoes-tomatoes-and-saffron-help-fight-disease on 06/12/23 05:30:16 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.