National Research Council Canada-NRC

National Research Council Canada-NRC

December 18, 2008 12:30 ET

Government of Canada Invests in PEI's Nutriscience and Health Research

CHARLOTTETOWN, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND--(Marketwire - Dec. 18, 2008) - The Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State, Science and Technology, and the Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, today announced a renewed investment in the National Research Council (NRC) Nutrisciences and Health technology cluster initiative in Charlottetown. This renewed investment will enable Prince Edward Island researchers to continue working to prevent disease and improve the health of Canadians.

"Our Government understands that advances in science and technology are essential to strengthen the competitiveness of Canada's economy and our quality of life," said Minister of State Goodyear. "Our continued support for innovation in science and technology creates high-quality jobs for Canadians and raises the standard of living in our country."

"I welcome the support of our science and technology industry in Prince Edward Island," said Minister Shea. "This investment will ensure that Island researchers continue to lead the country in health research for the benefit of all Canadians."

The NRC Nutrisciences and Health Technology Cluster brings together experts from NRC, other government organizations, industry, and universities and colleges, to work together to improve the health of Canadians, primarily through disease prevention. The cluster identifies how renewable, naturally occurring land-and marine-based resources can be used to address critical health conditions. Conditions of particular interest are those related to ageing, obesity, infection and immunity, including neurological disorders like Parkinson and Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, type-2 diabetes, viruses and allergies.

"The Nutrisciences and Health Technology Cluster is an example of how NRC and its partners collaborate to develop real solutions to the health concerns of Canadians while contributing to PEI's growing biosciences industry," said NRC President Dr. Pierre Coulombe. "The Government's renewed funding for this cluster will allow the world-class researchers in PEI to continue discovering natural, renewable bioactive compounds that can positively impact human health."

Technology clusters are broadly based community partnerships among industry, universities and colleges, and all levels of government, focused on building a competitive advantage for Canada through research and innovation. These S&T partnerships position communities to attract talent, investment and economic activity.

This $8 million investment in the Charlottetown cluster is part of the Government of Canada's renewed $12 M investment over two years in NRC's Round III Technology Cluster Initiatives.



What does "nutrisciences and health" really mean?
When we say nutrisciences and health, we are really referring to the discovery and commercialization of functional foods, nutraceuticals and natural health products for disease prevention and therapies for managing health conditions related to ageing, obesity, infection and immunity.

- Functional Foods - Functional foods are foods consumed as part of a usual diet that have a known health benefit and/or reduce the risk of chronic disease beyond basic nutritional functions (e.g. calcium-enriched fruit juice).

- Nutraceuticals - Nutraceuticals are products isolated or purified from foods that have a known health benefit or provide protection against chronic disease (e.g. omega-3 fatty acids, lycopene, carotene).

- Natural Health Products - Natural health products include vitamins and minerals, herbal remedies, homeopathic medicines, traditional medicines, probiotics, and products like amino acids and essential fatty acids. They are available without a prescription and include nutraceuticals.

About the Cluster (nutrisciences and health)

Health research and development is a priority in the Government of Canada's Science and Technology Strategy, and nutrition-related research is an important element within that priority. The National Research Council (NRC) is working with partners in Prince Edward Island (PEI) to tap market opportunities for human and animal nutrition and health-related products. NRC's approach draws on the immense potential of PEI's strengths in land and marine-based bioresources to make advances in nutrisciences research associated with preventing and managing diseases related to ageing, obesity, infection and immunity.

Cluster facts at a glance

- PEI is home to eight major research organizations and more than 28 bioscience companies. In the past three years, 50 percent more of these companies are generating revenues.

- NRC's research facility in Charlottetown (NRC Institute for Nutrisciences and Health) can house up to 130 research and support staff, provides incubation space for emerging bioscience companies, and serves as a hub for collaborative nutriscience research activities.

- The global functional and fortified food and beverage market is forecast to grow 35 percent from US$96 billion to $130 billion by 2011.

- Worldwide nutraceutical sales are forecast to exceed US$60 billion by 2012.

- In total, global functional food and nutraceuticals sales reached $296 billion in 2006.

- Closer examination reveals that in 2006 consumers spent $200 billion alone on nutraceuticals and dietary supplements compared to $216 billion on biopharmaceuticals. What is most significant is the fact that the functional food and nutraceuticals products represent out-of-pocket expenses for consumers, who are eager to take more control over their personal health, even when expenses are not covered by insurance plans.

NRC: Key in connecting cluster players

As a cornerstone of Charlottetown's cluster activities, NRC connects key partners, draws renowned experts to collaborate on R&D projects, provides longer-term research focus, aids with critical and costly infrastructure development, helps train the clusters up-and-coming bioscience knowledge workers through on-the-job placements and outreach mentoring, lends solid scientific credibility to nutrition-related product development, and works with partners to improve the commercialization capabilities of cluster members through targeted best practice workshops.

A magnet for talent

Across the cluster, stakeholders collaborate and develop ground-breaking products, processes and marketing strategies. In turn, NRC promotes PEI as a global centre for biosciences R&D and nutriscience expertise. NRC attracts international participation in the cluster by taking part in incoming and outbound missions, by presenting at key industry events, by hosting bioscience conferences, by establishing collaborative and fee-for-service research agreements with companies beyond the province, and by supporting venture creation and industry growth within the cluster for companies targeting global markets.

About overall NRC Technology Cluster Initiatives

The National Research Council (NRC) is meeting the Government of Canada challenge to mobilize science and technology to Canada's advantage. NRC is partnering with industry, universities and all levels of government to build dynamic technology clusters in communities across the country. By fostering world-class R&D with a clear focus on generating economic opportunities for Canadian communities, NRC research facilities and skilled people are accelerating community-led innovation. The results: new knowledge, new skills, new partnerships and new business opportunities focused on the priorities of Canadians and people around the world - from innovations and technologies that support health and wellness to new ideas in energy, transportation and environmental improvements.

The first five years

In 2000, NRC launched its cluster initiative program, concentrating on supporting centres of R&D excellence in Atlantic Canada. The $110 million investment in Atlantic Canada positioned NRC research facilities at the hub of four technology clusters: Ocean Technologies in St. John's; Information Technology and e-Business in Fredericton/Moncton; Wireless Technologies in Cape Breton; and Life Sciences in Halifax.

Based on initial successes achieved in these regions, NRC secured a second round of funding to expand its work into Central and Western Canada. In 2002/2003, NRC received funding to invest in six other clusters following the same model: Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Technologies in Vancouver; Nanotechnology in Edmonton; Plants for Health and Wellness in Saskatoon; Biomedical Technologies in Winnipeg; Photonics in Ottawa; and Aluminium Transformation in Saguenay.

In 2003/2004, NRC rounded out its portfolio of cluster initiatives by adding a Sustainable Urban Infrastructure initiative in Regina and a Nutrisciences and Health initiative in Charlottetown to its program.

These industry sectors focus on and address national priorities, including those related to the environment, energy, health, quality of life and the economy. NRC has played an important role in these initiatives by bringing its networks, facilities, research expertise, knowledge and industry support to the table - key assets that are invaluable to community partners.

While NRC's R&D and commercialization facilities in these regional clusters conduct some of the world's most innovative research, their impact is much greater when coupled with NRC's other strengths in research assistance, information sharing, industry partnerships, national and international networks, and technology licensing. Through NRC, Canadian companies now have greater access to the expertise, knowledge and help they need to develop, commercialize and market new technologies.

Committed leardership for long-term results

Although NRC and its partners have come a long way in just a few short years, it often takes decades for a technology cluster to mature and deliver its fullest economic impact and benefits. NRC is reaching a critical stage where it must build on the progress made so far. Only a continued commitment can ensure the evolution and the long-term sustainability of each of these initiatives. We believe that an ongoing commitment by all players in these important R&D areas will contribute strongly to Canada's future success in the global arena.

Contact Information

  • National Research Council Canada
    Institute for Nutrisciences and Health
    Lise Lafontaine
    Communications Advisor
    Cell: 902-218-0097
    National Research Council of Canada
    NRC Communications and Corporate Relations
    Natalie Hall
    Media Relations Advisor
    Office of the Honourable Gary Goodyear
    Minister of State (Science and Technology)
    Gary Toft
    Director of Communications