University of Tartu to Receive European Patent for Lactobacillus Fermentum ME-3
The European Patent Office will grant a patent for Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 discovered by UT scientists, which permits the bacteria to be used in the food industry in 24 countries. Previously, the invention has been granted patents in Estonia, USA and Russia.
According to Kristjan Haller, UT Vice Rector for Research, ME3 is so far the most popular invention of the university, and the fact that it is used in the food industry, where it can literally touch all of us, is especially significant. "In terms of research and application, the development activities in relation to Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 rest on a foundation of determined interdisciplinary work which involves numerous top specialists. I would especially like to highlight the long-term and efficient cooperation between the university and Tere plc in developing the product line Hellus [Estonian for 'tenderness']," said Kristjan Haller.
Erik Puura, Director of UT Institute of Technology, added that more important than the number of patents is the ability to earn money from them. "Less than 20% of patents in the world actually generate some revenue for their inventors – earning more than the cost of obtaining the patent is an even rarer occurrence. It is not the goal of the University of Tartu to hoard patents, but to find applications for them in close partnership with businesses as soon as possible – to the benefit of all parties and the Estonian economy," said Erik Puura.
The European patent permits the bacteria to be used in the food industry in 24 European countries, including Germany, France, the United Kingdom, etc. Previously, the invention has been granted patents in Estonia, Russia and the USA.
The invention entitled Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 as a novel antimicrobial and antioxidative probiotic, developed by UT scientists Marika Mikelsaar, Mihkel Zilmer, Epp Songisepp, Tiiu Kullisaar and Heidi Annuk, made its first public appearance in 2003, when a product line bearing the trademark Hellus was brought into the market in cooperation with Tere plc. The product line included yoghurts, sweet cream cheese blends and kefir enriched with the beneficial bacteria. Dairy products enriched with the bacteria are now available in all Baltic countries.
The ME-3 bacteria has caught the interest of manufacturers of leaven, food and food supplements in Estonia, Finland, Denmark, Luxembourg, France, Italy, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, India, Taiwan and China. The bacterium strain is the subject of research and development projects in several countries, for example, in Italy, Brazil, France, Spain and Hungary, and is also studied as part of several European cooperation projects. For their work on the bacteria, the UT research team have been awarded several prestigious prizes and research awards.
Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 bacteria can rightly be called Estonia's first probiotic lactic acid bacteria. Moreover, they are unique in the whole world because of their combination of antimicrobial and antioxidative effects. They protect human health by attacking harmful microbes and contribute to our physical well-being in other ways as well.
Jane Saatre, marketing manager (industrial property), telephone +372 529 7956 (patent)
Professor Marika Mikelsaar, Lead Research Fellow, Institute of Microbiology, telephone +372 503 9989 (ME-3)
Professor Mihkel Zilmer, Head of the Institute of Biochemistry, telephone +372 512 5311 (ME-3)
University of Tartu Press Representative
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e-mail anneli.miljan [ät] ut.ee