Professor Cathie Martin (John Innes Centre)
Cathie Martin’s contributions to plant biology have combined plant genetics and metabolism to provide new insights into plant developmental and metabolic processes. Cathie has made important contributions to the understanding of cell shaping and to anthocyanin biosynthesis and diversity, using genes that control major developmental and metabolic pathways. She is now investigating the relationship between diet and health, and how crops can be fortified to address the global challenge of escalating obesity and associated chronic disease. Cathie Martin is a powerful advocate and practitioner of the application of plant science for human health, and has also taken a leading role in promoting training and integrity in the plant sciences. Cathie has a collaborative research programme in China on Chinese Medicinal Plants, particularly those used for complementary therapies in cancer treatment.
Cathie was Editor-in-Chief of The Plant Cell (2008-2014) and is now an Associate Editor for Plant Physiology. She has honorary Doctorates from Royal Holloway College, University of London and the University of Copenhagen. She is a member of EMBO, AAAS, and a Fellow of ASPB. In 2014 she was awarded an MBE for services to Plant Biotechnology and in 2018 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.
Food is about Healthcare; Medicine is about Sick-care. The importance of plants in our diets
Our understanding of the challenges of achieving global food security has matured to include nutritional security, as scientists have realised that not only calorie content but food and colonic microbial composition impact our health and well-being, dramatically. The ways that the nutrients we consume affect our health are highly complex due to the diversity of what we eat, the varying digestibility of what we eat, the changing composition and functioning of each individual’s gut microbiota, the differences in absorption and bioavailability of the nutrients we eat, the differences in responses between individuals to what they eat and the multi-fold mechanisms of action that nutrients have on our health. It has been accepted for more than 50 years that diets rich in plants, particularly fruit and vegetables, protect health, and yet diets have declined, with lower fruit and vegetable content replaced by more cheap, sugary, oily processed foods. These dietary shifts have had a marked impact on the incidence of chronic diseases; obesity, metabolic diseases, type2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Only by understanding how phytonutrients improve our health by reducing risks of chronic disease and which phytonutrients confer greatest benefits in protecting against specific diseases (a process termed comparative nutrition) can we hope to achieve dietary improvements at all levels in society. By describing examples of preclinical comparative nutritional analyses, I hope to illustrate the potential of dietary improvement using plant-based foods to improve our health and quality of life and to reduce the economic burden on our health-care systems.
Dr Richard Espley (The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Ltd)
Richard Espley is a Programme Leader at Plant & Food Research (PFR) with projects across a range of crops from apple and pear to grape and blueberry. Richard worked on banana as a molecular biologist at Syngenta in the UK before moving to PFR in New Zealand in 2002. He is a molecular biologist focussed on the biosynthesis and genetic regulation of plant secondary metabolites. This has involved studies into the biosynthesis and transcriptional regulation of polyphenols (particularly anthocyanins), carotenoids and alkaloids. Richard is interested in aspects of fruit quality and the dietary implications of foods with enhanced phytochemical levels.
Boosting the nutritional value of fruit
Fresh fruit and vegetables as part of the daily diet are one way to increase ‘health-span’: a longer healthy life. With advances in understanding the genomics and genetics of crop plants, there is an opportunity to enhance key consumer traits such as appearance, flavour, health, storage, and convenience. The best-accepted compounds in fruits and vegetables that affect health are vitamin C, vitamin A, and flavonoids, including anthocyanins. These anthocyanins provide many of the reds, blues and purples of fruit and often provide the ‘wow factor’ for consumers. The added benefit of these colour compounds is that they are either measurably healthy or considered by the consumer as healthy. Hence, anthocyanin concentration is a key target for fruit improvement. In many fresh plant products the health benefits, such as anthocyanins, are mainly located in the skin. Fruit skin makes up less than 10% of a fruit, leaving a large volume of flesh ready for ‘improvement’.
As an exemplar for this, we are using Vaccinium species to create a novel, anthocyanin rich berry. Blueberry has deeply pigmented skin but colourless flesh, while its close relative, bilberry, has both deeply pigmented skin and flesh, and contains much higher concentrations of anthocyanins. We are using hybridisation techniques of blueberry and bilberry to produce hybrid berries with coloured flesh to deliver hybrid fruit with up to five times the phytochemical content of normal blueberry, and create an attractive new fruit for consumers.
Dr Quan Vuong (University of Newcastle)
Dr Vuong is a senior lecturer in food science at the University of Newcastle. He is an expert in food processing and preservation with more than 5 years of working experience in the food industry and over 15 years of research experience in the field of food science. He has specific expertise in food analysis and a strong focus on tea and tea products, food dehydration, and food product development. He also has a strong portfolio in relation to natural bioactive compounds and their utilization in functional foods and pharmaceuticals, as well as valorisation of by-products from the food processing industry into high added-value products for market applications.
Recovery of bioactive compounds from food by-products for utilisation in nutraceuticals, cosmeceuticals and pharmaceuticals
Global food production has increased significantly over the last century due to the rise in population and consumer demand. Consequently, a large quantity of by-products have been generated and are challenging for the food industry. Food by-products contain high levels of bioactive compounds, which can potentially be utilised in nutraceuticals, cosmeceuticals and pharmaceuticals. As these compounds are susceptible to degradation, it is important to find the most cost-effective pre-treatment, extraction and isolation techniques to achieve maximum recovery yield. Results from our study on selected food by-products, such as olive leaf, macadamia skin, carrot peel, banana peel, and lemon pomace have revealed that these sources are rich in bioactive compounds, such as phenolic compounds and carotenoids, however they were significantly affected by pre-treatment and extraction techniques. Inappropriate techniques resulted in extracts with low levels of bioactive compounds, whereas the right techniques gave a high recovery yield with low production cost. Encapsulation was found as an essential technique to protect bioactive compounds and enable them to be more available for further applications. However, each type of by-product required a specific pre-treatment, extraction and encapsulation technique. Under optimal conditions, bioactive enriched extracts derived from food by-products had potent antioxidant and antimicrobial activities. Therefore, food by-products, which are generally known as waste, could serve as a source of potentially valuable bioactive compounds for further use in nutraceuticals, cosmeceuticals and pharmaceuticals.
Professor Peter Howe (University of Southern Queensland)
Peter is Professor of Clinical Nutrition at the University of Southern Queensland, Emeritus Professor and head of the Clinical Nutrition Research Centre at the University of Newcastle, Adjunct Professor at the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia, Chair of the TGA’s Advisory Committee for Complementary Medicines, Emeritus Editor of Nutrients and a Fellow of the Nutrition Society of Australia.
His multidisciplinary preclinical and clinical research in nutrition, cardiovascular physiology and neuroscience has underpinned health claims for functional foods and nutraceuticals. He has published 270 papers with 7500 citations (H-index = 45).
Nutrients for a Healthy Circulation
The adverse impact of unhealthy diets and lifestyles on the circulation has long been recognised, with the focus for more than half a century on contributions of saturated fat, cholesterol and salt to coronary heart disease, hypertension and stroke. These conditions have been managed with expensive but effective pharmacotherapy, diminishing any motivation for lifestyle modification. However, recognising that inflammatory mechanisms play a key role in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease as well as cancer, we are starting to realise the prophylactic potential for anti-inflammatory nutrients, many of which have been generically labelled as antioxidants. This label may understate more specific mechanisms by which certain nutrients including cocoa flavanols, omega-3 and resveratrol can support endothelial functions and counteract systemic inflammation in both large arteries and the microvasculature.
Moreover, the benefits afforded by these vasoactive nutrients extend beyond the heart to the entire circulation, influencing the health of all tissues. We are now gaining an appreciation of their potential for optimising metabolic and mental health as well as preventing cardiovascular disease. It is not surprising that grape extracts containing resveratrol, for example, can help protect against diabetes and dementia as well as heart disease, when one recognises the contribution of endothelial dysfunction to these conditions. Increased knowledge of underlying mechanisms will enables us to predict 1) health benefits, 2) who will derive the benefits and 3) judicious nutrient combinations to maximise benefits. Such predictions need to be validated in well-designed clinical trials to ascertain optimal intakes and delivery of vasoactive nutrients to underpin health claims.
Professor Andrew Scholey (Swinburne University of Technology)
Professor Andrew Scholey is director of the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology at Swinburne University, Melbourne Australia. He is a leading international researcher into the neurocognitive effects of nutritional interventions, recreational drugs, supplements and food components. He has published over 200 peer-reviewed journal articles, as well as 20 books and book chapters. He has attracted over $20 million in research funding. Andrew has been lead investigator in a series of studies into the human biobehavioural effects of nutritional interventions, focusing on potential neurocognition-enhancing and anti-stress/anxiolytic properties (including first-into-human neurocognitive assessment of Ginseng, Sage, curcumin and Lemon balm amongst others). His current research focuses on neuroimaging and biomarker techniques to better understand the mechanisms of cognitive enhancement. Andrew works closely with industry which allows rapid translation of research into evidence-based end-user health benefits.
Nutrients to boost mood and memory
Cognitive processes involve multiple brain processes (hormonal, chemical, physiological) which interact in complex ways. Despite this, historically, research into brain disorders - including cognitive decline and dementia - have focused on so-called ‘magic bullet’ approaches, largely affecting targets restricted to single neurotransmitter systems. This strategy has had relatively little impact on the problem. There is increasing evidence that certain components of diet can impact positively on mood and cognitive function. It may be that by affecting multiple systems, bioactive nutrients, including widely consumed plant flavonoids and micronutrients may offer a more promising approach.
The fact that supplementation with a number of nutritional interventions can improve neurocognitive performance and mood is increasingly important in an ageing society. This talk will draw on specific examples from a two decade systematic assessment of the behavioural effects of dietary interventions. It will present key findings from the state-of-the-science research in this area including RCTs of specific nutrients and studies of underlying neural mechanisms from neuroimaging.
Evidence-based nutritional interventions offer a realistic approach to improving mood, cognition and offsetting age-related cognitive decline, including in at-risk populations.
Dr Tetyana Rocks (Deakin University)
Tetyana Rocks is a postdoctoral Fernwood Foundation Research Fellow at the Food & Mood Centre, Deakin University. Tetyana is an accredited dietian who competed her PhD at USC in 2017. For her PhD, funded by the Australian Postgraduate Award, Tetyana focused on eating, exercise and body attitudes and how these factors are influenced by nutrition knowledge. Previously, Tetyana lectured in Nutrition and Dietetics, covering the areas of general nutrition, food, society and culture, and food sciences. Currently, Tetyana is developing her post-doctoral research in the area of nutrition and mental health. Her main role within the centre is to support the translation of the current evidence in the field of Nutritional Psychiatry into policy and clinical practice by facilitating resources for knowledge translation and dissemination. Tetyana is actively collaborating with a number of internationally recognised organisations to evaluate existing and to develop new clinical services for individuals with mental health issues. Tetyana is also developing educational modules in Nutritional Psychiatry for current and future medical practitioners to facilitate a broader understanding on diet and mental health and to provide necessary skills to help individuals and communities.
Diet and mental health: benefits of a healthy microbiome
Growing body of evidence points to a strong connection between everyday diet, brain function, mood and cognition across the lifespan. Thus, our everyday diet plays a vital role in the state of our mental health. For example, nutritional exposure in maternal and early postnatal diet, as well as food habits in childhood are associated with behavioural and emotional problems in younger people. Dietary patterns in adulthood and later life show links with mental and cognitive health. One of the fascinating biological pathways that mediate these relationships is the gut-brain axis. Human gut microbiome is one of the most exciting new ﬁelds of research demonstrating mechanisms of action in the unique bidirectional relationship between the gut and the brain. There are several genetic and environmental determinants of healthy gut-brain axis; however, everyday diet is increasingly recognised as the dominant modiﬁable factor in the mix. Diets based on nutrient- and ﬁbre-rich foods are beneﬁcial for gut health, while diets predominant in nutrient-poor foods, such as sugary, high-fat and processed foods, are detrimental for gut, and, consequently, mental and cognitive health.
Dr Karen Murphy (University of South Australia)
Karen holds a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry and has over 20 years’ experience working in the nutrition science field. She leads the Mediterranean dietary patterns group at the University of South Australia and uses an evidence-based approach to explore the effect of whole diet and lifestyle patterns on chronic disease risk using randomised controlled trials.
Specifically her research investigates the impact of the Mediterranean dietary pattern on cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome as well as mental health and wellbeing and risk of dementia. She is a recognized leader in research in nutrition, chronic disease and ageing and as a result collaborates with national and international researchers and the food industry. She offers expertise in clinical trials, assessment of dietary intake, measures of body composition, cardiovascular health, cognitive performance and biochemical analyses.
Karen is able to translate science and her research outcomes to clinical populations through her role as a private practice Accredited Practicing Dietitian. She has over 50 articles and reports with >1500 citations, and is a recipient of 24 research and travel awards one of which is the prestigious South Australian Young Tall Poppy Science Award (2009).
Implementing a Mediterranean-style diet in regional Australia
The traditional Mediterranean diet is characterised by a high consumption of fruits, vegetables, wholegrain cereals, nuts, legumes, extra virgin olive oil; moderate consumption of red wine, fish, poultry, dairy foods and a low intake of red meat and discretionary foods. It delivers vitamins, minerals, fibre, omega-3 and monounsaturated fats, flavonoids and carotenoids, components which are thought to exert potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that confer significant reductions in cardiovascular disease and mortality and a range of other chronic diseases. This presentation will provide a rationale why a Mediterranean diet should be adopted as a healthy dietary pattern and offer insights into the implementation of the pattern in regional Australia.
Dr Polly Burey (University of Southern Queensland)
Dr Burey is a chemical and materials engineer with expertise in understanding fundamental relationships between microstructure, processing and rheological behaviour of food materials and bioplastics developed over a 17 year research career with an industry focus. Dr Burey joined the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) in 2017 to develop the new BSc Food Science major. Her current research interests lie in development of useful ingredients, nutritional products and composite materials from agricultural and food processing excess and by-products. Dr Burey led a successful USQ team through the CSIRO ON Prime program in 2018, involving customer consultation with over 100 interviewees focusing on pathways for food excess and by-products, leading to new projects with some of these interviewees. Dr Burey’s past research has involved work with large food multinational corporations (MNCs) and as small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) on product and process development, as well as mathematical models for understanding relationships between food microstructure and their rheology.
Value-adding to food by-products
Horticultural food producers and processors in Australia often have excess food or by-products generated during their operations. Currently, the value of this excess material is underutilised, and it ends up in landfill, improperly composted, or given away as low value animal feed. This material is a rich source of bioactive compounds, and could instead be used as a feedstock for nutritional and food products. This also serves to increasing the value of this resource for food producers, and potentially create new industries. Some of the hurdles to unlocking this potential include high operating and transport costs, and time-consuming processes. It is also non-core agribusiness, as the full potential of utilising this material for higher value products, and possible business cases, are yet to be determined. This presentation will focus on some of the food processing by-products generated in Queensland, the bioactive compounds they contain, and potential higher value applications.
Professor Roger Hellens (Queensland University of Technology)
Professor RP Hellens is the Deputy Executive Director of The Institute for Future Environments at QUT, leading the development of QUT’s transdisciplinary research in innovation agenda.
He joined QUT and the Centre for Tropical Crop and Biocomodities in 2014 to work on banana biofortification.
From 2000 to 2014, he worked in New Zealand at Plant & Food in Auckland, where he had a number of roles including leading the organisation's genomics research and the $10M p.a. Kiwifruit breeding programme. His research interests there were the development of red-fleshed apple and kiwifruit varieties and exploiting Next Generation Sequencing techniques to sequence crop genomes. He has also maintained a keen interest in transcriptional and post-transcriptional gene regulation, and this has become relevant in work to understand the regulation of anthocyanins and vitamin C.
Before his move to New Zealand, Professor Hellens worked at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK. Here, he developed the first genetic maps in pea (including his PhD on the molecular basis of Mendel’s white flower phenotype), He designed the pGreen plant transformation vector and a project on gene silencing (RNAi) in petunia.
Vitamin C, so much more than ascorbic acid
To understand the molecular regulation of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in plants we have uncovered a novel, short ORFs that represses translation of GDP-galactose phosphorylase (GGP), a key enzyme in ascorbic acid biosynthesis . These finding may help us to develop cultivars with elevated levels of vitamin C. The potential nutritional benefits of this goes beyond preventing scurvy (a-scorbutus) and may help with iron bioavailability so help combat iron deficiency anaemia.
While genome sequencing is now commonplace, genome annotation and functional characterisation of components of the genome remains an enormous challenge. Like small regulatory RNAs, short open reading frames (sORFs) often reside in ‘non-coding’ regions of the genome that have long been considered to be ‘junk DNA however, their discovery and characterisation could prove very useful .
Translatable sORFs of less than 100 amino acids are extremely difficult to predict from genome sequences as the number of potential ORFs increases exponentially as the expected peptide lengths get smaller . This challenge is made more complicated by mounting evidence that these small proteins do not always comply with the genetic convention. One such example is the uORF that regulate use a translation of GGP.
Laing WA, Martinez-Sanches M, Wright M, Bulley S, Brewster D, et al. An upstream open reading frame is essential for feedback regulation of ascorbate biosynthesis in Arabidopsis. The Plant Cell 2015; 27(3): 772-786.
Waterhouse PM, Hellens RP. Plant biology: Coding in non-coding RNAs. Nature 2015; 520(7545): 41-42.
Hellens RP, Brown CM, Chisnall MA, Waterhouse PM, Macknight RC. The emerging world of small ORFs. Trends in Plant Science 2016; 21(4): 317-328.
Professor Manny Noakes (CSIRO, Adelaide)
Manny Noakes is a former Senior Principal Research Scientist in the Nutrition and Health Research Program at CSIRO. Manny has led a nutrition research program for several years in diverse areas of nutrition, diet and lifestyle programs for community uptake. She has authored over 200 peer-reviewed publications on many aspects of nutrition and health including the environmental impact of dietary patterns and overconsumption. Manny is also an experienced nutrition science communicator, author of the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet, amongst other nutrition programs and a Distinguished Alumni of Flinders University. She holds a research excellence award from the University of Adelaide and is an adjunct Professor with the University of South Australia.
Nutrition for the future – selling the messages?
Better nutrition is a powerful path to better health and wellbeing. Self health and wellness and direct to consumer wellness products and services are a burgeoning global industry, in part fueled by our increasing aging population wishing to maintain and optimize their health and reduce morbidity. The global wellness industry is estimated as a $3.4 trillion market, or 3.4 times larger than the worldwide pharmaceutical industry. Within that sector, preventive and personalised services, nutrition and weight loss, complementary medicine and nutraceuticals encompass almost one third of this economic value. While the health system is under economic pressure, there is an opportunity for global food and healthcare sectors to become more effective as well as to be major export industries and make a positive contribution to the economy. Nutrition has a key role to play in these areas but it is also an intense area of confusion, polarisation and misinformation. “Selling the message” needs to be more than information. It must also motivate and inspire and make it more personally relevant to people. This is the opportunity that the technological revolution brings. However, caution is needed in nutrition and health as a marketing tool for food and nutraceuticals which also need to consider regulatory challenges.
Nonetheless, personalisation and data analytics to understand unmet consumer needs so that products and services evolve is essential to success. Examples using concepts and data from the CSIRO Diet Score and Total Wellbeing Diet will illustrate some simple strategies for productising and “selling” nutrition and wellbeing.
Simon Lord (MBD Industries)
Simon has 25 years of professional experience in diverse senior business management roles around the world, including living a decade in Switzerland and the USA. His educational background is in biochemistry and biotechnology. Simon has worked in various industries including human nutrition, plastics, coatings, pigments, packaging, cancer research, and pharmaceuticals.
Simon is currently leading the development and commercialisation of MBD Industries’ products derived from algae for human and animal nutrition, including natural astaxanthin.
MBD is the world leader in using macroalgae to remediate nutrient-rich water from aquaculture farms, such as the wholly owned prawn farm subsidiary, Pacific Reef Fisheries, and municipal water treatment operations. The macroalgae is then processed in valuable products such as plant biostimulants, edible aonori, or immune boosting animal feeds.
Marketing Astaxanthin: From Bird Baths to Brain & Body Boost
Australia now has its first and only facility to produce the highly valuable carotenoid, natural astaxanthin, from the so-called “bird-bath” microalga, Haematococcus pluvialis (Hp). Astaxanthin has two major commercial uses: in aquaculture feeds, where the synthetic version dominates, and in “nutraceuticals” which almost exclusively uses the natural algal source. This presentation will focus on typical usage levels, volumes, market drivers, and prices in these very different markets and how this impacts commercialisation strategies when overlaid with the competitive environment, demand and supply, value chain, and regulatory landscape. The health benefits of astaxanthin, cultivation of Hp, and comparison with synthetic astaxanthin will also be covered briefly as these also inform the appropriate marketing strategy.
Professor Chris Blanchard (Charles Sturt University)
Professor Blanchard has been an academic at Charles Sturt University for 20 years. His current roles include Professor of Food Science and Director of the ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Functional Grains (or Functional Grains Centre). Much of Professor Blanchard’s research focuses on adding value to grain and he has a particular interest in measuring the health benefits of grain. Professor Blanchard has held previous positions including Deputy Chair of the GRDC Southern Panel, Chair of the RACI Cereal Chemistry Division, Member of the International Year of the Pulse National Committee and Member of the GrainGrowers Ltd Policy group. He is currently a Non-executive Director of the GRDC Board, Member of the Australian Academy of Sciences National Committee for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and Pathway Leader for the Graham Centre of Agricultural Innovation. Professor Blanchard was also Co-Chair of the 2018 Australasian Grain Science Conference. In addition to leading the ARC Training Centre, he also leads several other large grain-based projects funded by ACIAR, Agrifutures and GRDC.
Grains, pulses and oilseeds for healthy regional communities
Australia is a significant producer and exporter of grains including wheat, barley, oats, sorghum, rice, canola, chickpeas and lentils. The majority of the grain crops grown in Australia are exported as relatively low value commodities. While grains are well known as a good source of nutrients, they are also an important potential source of high value functional proteins and bioactive compounds. These bioactive compounds have the potential to improve health outcomes for consumers. The development of health promoting grain products in our regions also provides the opportunity to improve the economic health of our communities. This presentation will outline some of the research undertaken in the Functional Grain Centre to identify bioactive properties of Australian grown cereals, oilseeds and pulses and discuss the potential implications of these discoveries.
Professor Lindsay Brown (University of Southern Queensland)
Lindsay Brown completed a Bachelor of Pharmacy at The University of Queensland in 1974 and a PhD at the University of Sydney in 1981, before postdoctoral studies in Munich until 1986. He was an academic at The University of Queensland before taking up his current position as Professor of Biomedical Sciences at USQ in 2009. His research group looks at the effectiveness of foods with anti-inflammatory effects to reverse organ damage using rat models of chronic human disease, especially obesity, hypertension, inflammatory bowel disease, osteo-arthritis and kidney damage.
From preclinical to clinical to the regions
Functional foods provide health benefits in chronic diseases such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, kidney damage and inflammatory bowel disease, in addition to providing nutrition. These chronic diseases show chronic low-grade inflammation combined with oxidative stress. We have shown that components of foods can reverse the symptoms using appropriate rat models of these human diseases. These interventions can be produced commercially, sustainably and cost-effectively in regional Australia. But are these effective treatments in rats also effective in humans? This talk will discuss the critical importance of undertaking clinical trials on functional foods in the regions, emphasising the potential benefits firstly to our local communities, and then to the wider community.