The patented technology, developed during three years of research with Professor Yuval Shoham at the Technion Institute in Israel, is based on the enzyme lipase, which breaks down lipids, including triglycerides, for their absorption and digestion.
Professor Shoham, head of food engineering and biotechnology at the Technion Institute, says the new technology, dubbed 'Lipase 2', can reach the fatty acid that is located on the second position (Sn-2) of the triglyceride, or the one used by our bodies, giving food manufacturers greater control over the nutritional or therapeutic benefits offered by the nutrient.
"All other known lipases can build or break down only the first and third positions while the human metabolism uses the bounded second position as a building block for other essential elements," he explained.
Avidor Shulman, Enzymotec's director of innovation, added: "Fats and oils are found all over our body and are the most natural delivery system we have. But in order to deliver the right fatty acid to the right organ, they have to be in a specific position. Until now, there has been no elegant way to predetermine this position."
The company, which develops innovative lipid-based ingredients for the nutraceuticals and functional food markets, plans to use the enzyme to develop new products although it has not ruled out external licensing agreements.
For instance, it could enhance absorption of omega-3 fatty acids by specific organs such as the brain. It could also improve delivery of fat-soluble vitamins or even other active ingredients, according to Shulman.
"At a later stage you could even use it for pharmaceutical actives or to create oils and fats with a different viscosity or other properties," he added.
However the primary focus for Enzymotec will be to deliver superior nutritional benefits from fat- or oil-based foods or supplements. It is currently running clinical trials to test the improved nutrient delivery.
In recent years other researchers had tried to identify Sn-2-specific enzymes but none are thought to have found one with such selective activity.