21 March 2014
Top tomatoes secure “Most Promising Innovator” award
The goodness of 27 bottles of red wine without the alcohol and the benefits of tofu without the texture – tomatoes with high levels of beneficial compounds win John Innes Centre scientists the BBSRC award of “Most Promising Innovator 2014.”
“We have been inspired by the need to redefine the meaning of healthy food,” saysProfessor Cathie Martin from the John Innes Centre, winner of the award with Dr Eugenio Butelli.
“Fruits and vegetables often contain health-giving nutrients at only low levels so we created a system to increase them and undertook trials to demonstrate the health benefits.”
The results are four new tomato varieties. One purple tomato contains the same amount of anthocyanins as a half punnet of blueberries. One large 100g orange tomato contains the same amount of a beneficial compound as 27 bottles of Pinot Noir. A yellow tomato contains levels of genistin, found in soy products, equivalent to 150g of tofu. The fourth variety contains health-promoting quercetin and kaempferol – normally found in capers, radishes, onions and watercress.
“The tomato varieties we have developed offer a new way to compare the protective effects that specific bioactive molecules can exert on the development of chronic diseases,” says Professor Martin.
The bioactive compounds selected are known to offer protection against inflammation, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Martin and Eugenio Butelli’s research is helping to uncover how the protective mechanisms work and which compounds are most effective. The tomato products could be used to complement medicines in the treatment andprevention of chronic diseases and obesity.
The tomatoes also offer an innovative business model which can be used to navigate the regulatory hurdles associated with genetic modification.
The Innovator of the Year competition, now in its sixth year, recognises and rewards BBSRC-funded scientists who are turning the UK’s bioscience research into products and technology to generate economic growth and improve quality of life.
“We brought an enticing tomato salad to the award ceremony and we want to ensure that one day such a salad can be eaten, or juice can be consumed, offering benefits to all who want them,” says Dr Butelli.
“Cathie and Eugenio are the third JIC winners of a BBSRC Innovator award, an achievement which demonstrates the entrepreneurial spirit of our researchers, and the importance of fundamental scientific research in providing the foundation on which innovative science is built,” said JIC Director Professor Dale Sanders.
Of the 30 Innovator awards given our so far, Professor Martin is only the third female recipient.