Top IRL scientist lends expertise to Manuka Health

Friday 22 June 2012, 2:06PM

By Liz Glasgow



One of the country’s top agri-business scientists will lend his expertise to biotechnology company, Manuka Health New Zealand, as it gears up to manufacture a range of new products.

Dr Owen Catchpole, Group Manager of Industrial Research Ltd’s Integrated Bioactive Technologies team, has been seconded to Manuka Health as part of IRL’s focus on being responsive to the needs of New Zealand industry.

He will be concentrating principally on technology transfer and consultancy projects during his tenure with the company, which starts on July 2. He will also be assisting with the technical aspects of the design of Manuka Health’s planned, new $7 million facility to be built in Te Awamutu.

A key role will be to scale up the manufacture of a number of new products, including Manuka CycloPower™, initially using the facilities at Auckland’s FoodBowl, a new multi-million dollar food manufacturing facility that is making pilot testing more accessible for smaller manufacturers.

CycloPower™ uses cyclodextrins (sugar compounds derived from plant material) to deliver the active compound in manuka honey, methylglyoxal, in foods, drinks, dietary supplements and other nutritional and medicinal products.

Manuka Health’s Chief Executive Officer, Kerry Paul, says Dr Catchpole’s secondment is pivotal to the company’s rapid implementation of new manufacturing technologies at commercial scale.

“His expertise in this area and familiarisation with the process will enable Manuka Health to have robust commercial manufacturing in place to support the early commercialisation of a range of new products using cyclodextrins,” he said.

Dr Catchpole, who was recently named one of the top ten agribusiness influencers in Primary magazine’s ‘The Farm 40’ – a list of the top leaders, entrepreneurs and thinkers in the agricultural sector –says he is looking forward to the challenge of the secondment.

“I’m working on a total of nine projects focusing on new products based on Manuka Health’s scientifically-validated, apiary-based areas of expertise. Manuka Health is a rapidly growing company that is always looking for additional expertise to support them in their growth and is a good fit for my field of expertise.”

Dr Catchpole is recognised internationally as an expert in supercritical extraction technology, including the extraction of lipids. These substances are part of a large and diverse group of naturally occurring organic compounds that are now the new frontier of bioactive compounds for human and animal health care.

Career highlights include pioneering and establishing supercritical fluid extraction as an industrial process in New Zealand, being elected a Fellow of IPENZ (Institution of Professional Engineers of New Zealand), being awarded a Royal Society of New Zealand Science and Technology Silver Medal, and leading a team of 25 people whose focus has been on the development of new naturally-derived products and the green processing technologies to make those products.

Manuka Health was founded in 2006 following the discovery of the compound in manuka honey, methylglyoxal, responsible for its anti-bacterial activity.

Today, Manuka Health is a leader in commercialisation of biotechnologies for human healthcare applications, exporting some 80 functional foods, dietary supplements and wound-care products to more than 45 countries. With 20 per cent of global manuka markets, it is the market leader in 35 countries.