Iceland is in a unique position when it comes to biotechnology and biomolecules due to its diverse and distinctive nature. “The division of Biotechnology and biomolecules has therefore also focused on investigation of the microorganisms that live in geothermal areas as well as on the continental shelf. We are therefore working with microorganism that are only found in Iceland and not known elsewhere”, says Hordur G. Kristinsson, director of Biotechnology and Biomolecules and the Chief Science Officer at Matís. .
Matís is leading in research and development of biomolecules, biotechnology and bioactive substances. Our research is focused on how to promote sustainable use of Icelandic nature for the production of desired biochemicals and enzymes and how to use anti-oxidants and protein-rich by-products and thereby increase their value and utilization.
To support biotechnology researches a biotechnology center was set up in Saudarkrokur, a small town in the north of Iceland. The biotechnology center houses the most advanced laboratory in Iceland, which has played a significant part in Matís’ work and the progress of biotechnology research and innovation in Iceland.
Matís’ research of biotechnology concerns bioeconomy and its safeguarding. We are constantly developing strategies and processing methods to screen for, isolate and make valuable biomaterials from natural raw materials. Our main focus has been on underutilized raw materials and by-products.
Processing of marine products produces large amounts of underutilized material that is either used in low value products, such as fishmeal, or discarded with all the adverse effects it has on the environment. Valuable products can be made from all this extra material, such as ingredients for dietary supplements and functional food.
Not only has the processing of by-products created new valuables, but has also had positive effects on rural development and economic life. Increased use of seaweed in Iceland has for example provided valuable products as well as creating a variety of jobs throughout the supply chain, such as seaweed harvesting and processing, production of bioactive substances and making of skin care products. All this has contributed to the increased diversity of the Icelandic economy.
Iceland is in a unique position when it comes to biotechnology and biomolecules due to its diverse and distinctive nature. The division has therefore also focused on investigation of the microorganisms that live in geothermal areas as well as on the continental shelf. We are therefore working with microorganism that are only found in Iceland and not known elsewhere.
Our research results have motivated the growth of start-ups like Iceprotein and Marinox that already have become a positive supplement to the Icelandic economy.
Much has been achieved in the study of active biomaterials from Icelandic seaweed, which is one of the most underutilized and possibly one of the most undervalued natural resource in Iceland. Research has shown that Icelandic brown seaweed is particularly rich in interesting and valuable bioactive materials. The first products containing such bioactive substances recently entered the market after years of research.
Our goal is to make market suited products from Icelandic biomolecules, given the fact that many of them have bioactivity not known elsewhere and are therefore already in great demand from domestic and foreign producers. Researches have already proved positive effects of using biomolecules in food and chemical industry. They could therefore be used in health products for the prevention of various ailments and diseases, such as hypertension, cancer as well as heart and vascular diseases.
Presently a specialist group on biomolecules is working on numerous projects related to the development of biochemical and bioactive substances. The main focus has been on algae research and seeking new ways to utilize biomass in various products. “New natural antioxidant from the sea,” is an example of project in progress, this project is funded by the Icelandic AVS fisheries research fund and worked in cooperation with Marinox and companies from the fishing industry. The project is about the development and production of new natural antioxidants from Icelandic seafood to enhance the stability of various seafood. The project is based on many years of research on algae, which resulted in the foundation of Marinox, which specializes in research, development and production of bioactive substances from marine algae and products containing such substances. Their first product line was UNA skincare™ a skin care products launched in 2012.
Increased value of algae processing is another cooperative project of Matís and Marinox, funded by AVS. The goal is to find ways to make valuable products by utilizing the byproducts of algae processing, that have not been used before. These products could be useful base compounds for chemical process and a carrier for food supplements and/or protein processing.
Processing of proteins is also a large part of the division’s work. Matís has partnered with MPF Iceland to develop a new product – Fish Tofu. The raw material in Fish Tofu is a protein mass obtained by isolating proteins from trimmings of fish filets.
The product is a good example of sustainable utilization of living natural resource. Instead of using the cuttings for low priced products such as animal feed as has been the norm, a high quality and valuable product is made, that fits well with today’s needs.
Amylomics, a project funded EU FP7 and coordinated by an employee at Biotechnology and Biomolecules division finished this year. Amylomics placed large emphasis on developing starch processing enzymes and more than 800 novel starch processing genes were retrieved in the project. Amylomics has been selected as a RTD Success Story. The discovery and extraction of enzymes found among the volcanoes of Iceland could lead to more efficient and greener industrial processes.
A number of these enzymes have already been patented, ushering in a new generation of biocatalysts.
For additional information, please contact Hordur G. Kristinsson, director of Biotechnology and Biomolecules and the Chief Science Officer at Matís.