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Aker doubles R&D team to take krill science beyond fish

By Shane Starling+

Last updated on 05-Sep-2013 at 16:10 GMT2013-09-05T16:10:23Z

Aker: "This is our opportunity to significantly expand the science base for phospholipid omega-3s specific to krill..."

Norwegian krill player Aker BioMarine has taken on eight scientists to drive nascent krill science forward and speed product development in the omega-3 category’s fastest growing sub-sector.

“This will help us follow through on some of the many commercial aspirations we have,” said chief operating officer Matts Johansen.

“There are thousands of studies that demonstrate the importance of omega-3s overall, but the large majority are focused on fish. This is our opportunity to significantly expand the science base for phospholipid omega-3s specific to krill and we need as many experts as possible to help in this effort.”

Seven of the eight arrivals come from the now defunct R&D division of fellow Norwegian pharma biotech firm, Clavis Pharma, which folded after two phase 3 milk fat lipid trials failed to deliver on cancer benefits in November last year and March this year.

Clavis CEO Gunnar Manum told us Aker will take control of the Oslo facility where the scientists had developed something called Lipid Vector Technology although Johansen said Aker was not interested in it for krill purposes.

"We will use the lab differently. The equipment will be used to develop and characterise new krill products and formulations, some of the equipment is suitable for that and we will invest in additional equipment," Johansen said.

The human nutrition krill sector

In recent years, according to SPINS data, the human nutrition krill sector has hit growth rates of 40+% annually compared to about 10% for the fish oil derived omega-3 sector. SPINS put total sales across all channels at $106m (€80m) for the year to March 2013.

Aker said its new hires also possessed expertise in regulatory matters and NPD. They are Finn Myhren, PhD, R&D; Wenche Rasch, PhD, R&D; Petter-Arnt Hals, PhD, R&D; Stefan Hupfeld, PhD, R&D; Tore Duvold, PhD, R&D; Trygve Bergeland, PhD, R&D; Hanne Loken, PhD, Regulatory Affairs; and Tove Flem Jacobsen, MSc, R&D. 

Tim de Haas, Aker VP of business development added: "This is a substantial investment that will give us the internal resources we need to follow through on some of the development ideas we have and deliver what the market is asking for."

Study focus areas...

Krill expansion: Aker has fingered brain health as an area its new scientists can explore

After publication, de Haas got in touch to add that one research area of focus would be cognitive health in addition to the traditional focuses of heart and brain health.

"[Brain health] is a topic we have intensively discussed with our Scientific Advisory Board and have now partnered with an academic group in Europe to conduct a large clinical study in adolescents," de Haas said.

"As we have obtained very encouraging results from our last blood lipid study, we will continue to look and investigate the effects of krill oil in the cardiovascular segment. Additionally we plan to further improve the documentation on the joint health effects of krill oil."

Studies on the effects of krill oil consumption among different populations were also in the pipeline.

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