The Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre (APC), based at the University College, Cork, will investigate probiotic bacteria and functional foods as one of the promising emerging treatments for intestinal disorders, including gastroenteritis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
The centre is funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and is the largest Irish bioscience project to date, according to the country's Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Harney.
A recent report from Acute Gastroenteritis found that acute gastroenteritis results in the loss of 1.5 million working days every year in Ireland, at a cost of €173 million to industry.
The new research will investigate mechanisms by which intestinal bacteria influence health and disease and will explore opportunities for commercial exploitation by both the food and pharmaceutical sectors.
Manipulation of intestinal microbes using food-grade bacteria and functional foods is emerging as a realistic therapeutic strategy for gastrointestinal disorders. The centre will also aim to educate industry and society on issues such as gastrointestinal disorders, probiotics and functional foods.
The centre will be supported by Teagasc (the government food and agriculture research agency) and industry, with additional investment from the Irish biotechnology company Alimentary Health, linked to multinational Procter and Gamble.
Ireland also recently opened a functional food research centre, aiming to boost the competitive advantage of Irish companies, particularly dairy ingredient firms, on international markets.
Contact the APC centre director, Professor Fergus Shanahan, at UCC for further information.