Protein isolate commercialization continues despite difficulties, Burcon

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Burcon, Nutrition

Canadian R&D firm Burcon has announced a growing loss and
deficit for the fiscal year 2008, but says it will continue to work
with ADM to bring its canola protein isolates to market.

The company reported a loss of $4.3m for the year ended March 31 2008, a further slip from last year's loss of $3.7m. Deficit at the end of the year was $26m, compared to $22m in 2007. However, Burcon said it planned to "remain focused"​ on commercializing its Puratein and Supertein canola protein isolates, which are the result of a major project the company has been working on together with the agricultural leader Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). The companies claim that these ingredients would be the world's first commercial canola proteins. Their ultimate goal is to have the two products join the competitive soy, dairy and egg protein ingredient market, for use in foods, nutritional supplements and personal care products. GRAS ​ During the past fiscal year, Burcon said it had amended its agreement with ADM to proceed with the regulatory approval for the two ingredients. The firm plans to file for self-affirmed GRAS status, and said it has completed all major scientific studies related to this process. The next step is for the studies and other documentation to be examined by a panel of experts, in order to determine that the ingredients are safe for use in foods and drinks. "Although the process is underway, Burcon cannot provide a specific date as to when it will be complete. To date, nothing has come to Burcon's attention that would imply that the proteins are unsafe for their intended use,"​ said the firm. The company said it has forked out US$473,000 related to the regulatory recognition process so far, and expects to have to pay an additional $144,000. The total cost of obtaining GRAS for the ingredients has been estimated at $977,000, which includes a $360,000 contribution from ADM. However, if ADM proceeds with a license agreement with Burcon, ADM will reimburse Burcon's share of the costs. Burcon also said that it is pursuing European novel foods status for the ingredients. Protein isolates ​Burcon says its patented protein ingredients have economic value because of their potential to replace egg, dairy and other proteins in broad applications such as emulsifying, gelling, and binding. Puratein and Supertein could appeal to the vegetarian or vegan ingredient markets because they have similar characteristics to eggs but are plant-based, according to the firm. Supertein's solubility profile also lends well to beverage applications - particularly low pH beverages where traditional protein ingredients experience challenges. The high protein efficiency ratio for canola is more than double that of soy, according to Burcon. This ratio measures a growing animal's total weight gain versus the weight of protein consumed during the same period. During fiscal 2008, Burcon was granted two US patents for the use of Supertein as a functional food ingredient. The firm said it also signed a number of three-way agreements together with ADM and "some of the world's largest food and beverage manufacturers​", who would be potential end-users of the ingredients. Overall R&D expenses for the year were slated at $2.2m, compared to $1.7m last year. The firm said it has sufficient resources to fund its expected level of operations and working capital requirements to at least November 2009.

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