Lutein (L), a compound which is entirely of dietary origin, is essential for optimal vision and protection against the world’s leading cause of blindness (age-related macular degeneration), and also confers other health benefits related to its antioxidant activity. The global market for L ($233 million in 2010) is expected to rise to $309 million by 2018. Currently, the world’s L market depends solely on extraction of this carotenoid from the marigold flower head, and it takes circa 60 days to complete plant growth and enter into the reproductive stage, from when the flower bud appears. Marigold cultivation requires large agricultural acreage, huge volumes of water and chemicals, and traditional farm equipment and labour. In other words, extracting L from the marigold flower is a labour-intensive process that is season- and climate-dependent, in a way that excludes an EU-based industry of competitive production of L. In summary, this project will develop a method of L production from an alternative source to the Marigold, so that the resulting patentable processes will stimulate an economically viable, EU-based and more environmentally-friendly industry to meet the growing global demand for L.
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