10 August 2009
Unique science collaboration for ground breaking agri-food research
In a collaboration of unparalleled scientific expertise in New Zealand, AgResearch and the University of Auckland’s
Liggins Institute are seeking to discover how nutrients in food affect animals and humans to improve body composition.
“We aim to investigate how nutrients in foods are released during digestion and how those nutrients then affect our
metabolism. The interaction between the digestion and absorption of nutrients i.e. the energy absorbed by the body from
our diet, and how nutrients affect our metabolism is a key focus of the research. This could have direct benefits for
people as two factors important in checking obesity are the absorption of energy from the diet, and how we metabolise
that energy,” said AgResearch Chief Executive Dr Andrew West.
“This research could also be used to achieve beneficial outcomes in productive animals - changing nutrient absorption
and metabolism so that the animal's body composition, like the meat they produce for example, is more appealing and
healthy for consumers. This would produce significant new market opportunities for New Zealand farmers.”
The Liggins Institute collaboration with AgResearch has resulted in the formation of the Pastoral Foods For Human Health
Research Centre. The Liggins Institute was the first large-scale research Institute established by The University of
Auckland. It is committed to world-class biomedical and clinical research in areas of major health importance. Professor
Sir Peter Gluckman heads the Centre’s research effort.
“The Centre aims to optimise the nutritional and health-giving qualities of foods from pastoral-based sources for human
consumption,” said The University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon.
“A major research target is novel agri-food ingredients with human health benefits. This focus includes animal feeds,
animal welfare products, ethical animal manipulation methods, and enhanced handling and processing of food products.”
“AgResearch and the Liggins Institute are jointly developing two key Foundation for Research Science and Technology
programmes on nutritional epigenetics and agri-foods – one centred on animal productivity and the other on food for
human health, but both sharing core methodology and key research staff from both organisations.”
“This endeavour is an excellent example of the fields of research we created the Liggins Institute to investigate.
Better understanding of the interrelationship between genetics and nutrition is vitally important and any insights we
uncover will be significant in dealing with a range of health and mortality issues which currently concern governments
and medical professionals,” said Professor Wayne Cutfield, the newly appointed Director of the Liggins Institute.
AgResearch’s General Manager of Applied Biotechnologies, Dr Jimmy Suttie, said the collaborative nutritional epigenetics
research is a ground breaking partnership in agri-food research for human health and animal productivity.
“AgResearch is the most integrated pastoral research organisation in the world. Our scientific expertise, together with
that of the Liggins Institute, provides an unparalleled combination of capability in pastoral agriculture, agri-foods,
human nutrition, growth and health. Our work together is part of the exciting new era in agri-food research for New
Zealanders and the agricultural sector.”