Researchers in Scotland have announced plans to develop more efficient and cost-effective methods of producing natural blue colorant from spirulina algae.
Scientists in Scotland have announced plans for research that will explore methods to scale up production of C-phycocyanin (C-PC), a blue pigment protein found in spirulina algae that's a popular option for natural coloring in the food, pharmaceutical, and nutraceutical industries. The project is motivated by the relative lack of natural sources currently available for blue pigments, and the difficulty and high cost often associated with creating such colorants in large quantities.
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh and industrial biotech firm Scottish Bioenergy (Roslin, Scotland) have entered into a research partnership to develop a large-scale process to extract C-PC from spirulina, with the project made possible by a £200,000 award from the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre’s (IBioIC) Micro Accelerator Program. Scottish Bioenergy specializes in commercial production of C-PC and has been working with researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences since 2012.
“We’re pleased to be embarking on the next phase of development for this sought-after pigment protein,” said Alistair McCormick, PhD, researcher on the project at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences, in a press announcement. “This is an interesting scientific and engineering challenge, and we hope our results will play a significant role in meeting the demand for this valuable product.”
The upcoming project will focus specifically on identifying and optimizing techniques for extracting the pigment protein from the spirulina, engineering strains of bacteria that produce high-yield and high-purity C-PC, and developing economically feasible models for producing large volumes of C-PC, according to a statement released by the University of Edinburgh. The university also noted that the demand for natural blue dye globally “is expected to increase ten-fold in the next two years from the food industry alone, to a market worth about £350 million."
“This award is a real boost for science in Scotland at a time when there are increasing worries about the impact of Brexit on funding of scientific projects,” said D.C. Van Alstyne, CEO of Scottish Bioenergy. “We are delighted that this funding will enable us to continue working with the university and ERI on developing our capability to produce high-quality C-PC to meet the growing demand from food, nutraceutical, and pharmaceutical industries.”
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