The public-private partnership, known as the BioMedical Materials Program (BMM), consists of companies, public organisations and knowledge institutes that are aiming to give The Netherlands an edge in biomedical materials by developing medical applications, obtaining intellectual property rights and publishing scientific papers.
Controlled-release capsule technology is identified as one of the concrete applications in which the BMM research may contribute - and this is an area in which has been of interest to supplement companies.
Dr Emiel Staring, senior program manager research, bioterials, at DSM (one of the industrial partners in the initiative) told NutraIngredients.com that although the primary aim for controlled-release capsules is pharmaceuticals, "in general the principle is applicable for nutrients and supplements".
He explained that there is a distinction between the two, in that with pharmaceuticals there may be a clear medical need for controlled release in a particular area of the body, whereas with nutrients there may not be the same need.
Need or not, some supplement companies have already started using this kind of technology in their products. Glucosamine, chondriotin, vitamin C and soy isoflavones products are amongst those to have been launched using controlled delivery technology (CDT) developed by Washington-based biopharmaceutical company SCOLR Pharma.
"Our technology provides the capabilities of the best pharmaceutical controlled delivery systems and applies it to the nutritional market," said Daniel Wilds, president and CEO of SCOLR recently.
The company says that CDT removes the need to take repeat doses of drugs, OTC products and nutritional supplements, while still enabling the user to receive the benefits of ingredients contained in a tablet or capsule over a sustained period of time.
This means that the body does not 'dump' excess ingredients that it cannot process at a given time, avoids peaks in serum levels, and prevents mal-absorption.
The CDT platform is based on matrix erosion, changes in gel thickness, electrolyte ionization, and ionic interactions. According to SCOLR, these are "self-correcting systems that lead to carefully controlled erosion as well as a predictable, programmable release of the active ingredient contained in the medicinal core."
Targeted release is also a key, and controversial, area of research in the nanotechnology field, as tiny edible capsules, or nanoparticles, can be used in foods and supplements for the release of their contents on demand at targeted spots in the body.
Other areas in which the BMM research may contribute are the next generation of hip and knee replacements and devices to replace damaged or dysfunctional organs.
BMM is due to submit a final business plan to the Dutch government in mid-May, with a view to obtaining a grant. The five-year programme's provisional budget is €120m.