23 November 2011
When Beneforté 'super broccoli' was launched onto selected UK supermarket shelves in October 2011, it represented a special achievement for UK bioscience - a consumer-focused, nutritionally-enhanced product developed over more than two decades through collaboration between two BBSRC-supported research world-class institutes and a specialist technology transfer company, part-owned by BBSRC.
Beneforté broccoli is two to three times higher in a compound called glucoraphanin from which sulforaphane is derived upon ingestion. Studies in animal model systems have shown that sulforaphane can lead to lower rates of heart disease, act against some forms of cancer, and boost the body's levels of antioxidant enzymes which can protect DNA from damage and is thought to be a useful component of healthy ageing (ref 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
Beneforté broccoli, developed by conventional breeding techniques, is born from research on the fundamental biology of plants and the link between human nutrition and health at the John Innes Centre (JIC) and the Institute of Food Research (IFR), respectively. Both institutes receive strategic funding from BBSRC, in 2010 £28M for JIC and £13M for IFR, which provides for long-term research programmes and supporting infrastructure. This allows the institutes to pursue mission-led, far-reaching research programmes that translate their science into new products, services or advice.
But the journey from wild broccoli variety to supermarket product has taken decades (see 'Timeline') and is not just about science. Translating work from laboratory bench to supermarket shelf also requires specialist commercial and legal expertise, which was achieved in collaboration with Plant Bioscience Limited (PBL), a company formed in 1994 to develop innovative research into patented and licensable technologies. PBL is jointly and equally owned by JIC, BBSRC, and the Sainsbury Laboratory and also located on the Norwich Research Park with JIC and IFR, forming a unique nucleus of cutting-edge science in the UK. BBSRC has representation of the board of the company. "The broccoli is selling well at M&S," says PBL Managing Director Jan Chojecki. "If this is sustained, there will certainly be a flow back to British science."
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