Seaweed health boost

Dr Helen Fitton, left, with colleagues in Marinova's laboratories.

LOCAL biotechnology company Marinova flies under the radar in Tasmania but it is a global leader in its field.

And like many in the health sector, Marinova has experienced intensified interest in its products in the wake of COVID-19.

Based at Cambridge Park, Marinova takes Japanese seaweed which was introduced into Tasmanian waters from ballast water from visiting Japanese boats in the 1980s, and extracts fucoidan which is used in numerous health supplements.

Established 20 years ago, CEO and Managing Director Paul Garrott said fucoidan was the “slimy film you find on many brown seaweeds’’.

The introduced pest is harvested along the East Coast of Tasmania.

“After initial attempts to commercialize it as a gourmet food ingredient, further investigation soon revealed that this was not going to be financially viable in the long run,’’ Mr Garrott said.

“What happened after that has certainly developed into a niche export market for Tasmania.’’

“Fucoidan-containing seaweeds have been used for thousands of years for all kinds of therapeutic purposes, but in the last 30 years the science supporting their health benefits has really progressed.

“To be clear, there is no evidence to suggest fucoidan has any activity against COVID-19.

“What we have seen however, is a significant increase in business as the world has turned its attention to immune health in general.

“Our ingredients are certainly supported by scientific evidence in this area.’’

Mr Garrott explains how Marinova’s Chief Scientist, Dr Helen Fitton, had been instrumental in the company’s success.

“As a bio-chemist, she understood the properties of fucoidan from wakame and the potential role of this natural compound in human health,’’ he said.

“We set about pioneering the world’s only cold water extraction process to produce high purity, certified organic fucoidan that could be included in a range of nutritional, pharmaceutical and dermatological products.

“The biggest market for their use is in nutritional supplements.

“Fucoidan has proven bioactivity in a range of human health areas including gut and digestive health, immunity, inflammation, viral inhibition, integrative oncology and skin protection.

“It’s rewarding to see the extracts we produce here in Tasmania exported to leading nutritional companies in more than 30 countries.

“The quality of the seaweed we harvest is very important, we are licensed to harvest here on Tasmania’s east coast, and we also harvest seaweed in Patagonia and Nova Scotia to help us meet global demand.

“Tasmania leads the world in marine research and Marinova is proud to be contributing to that global reputation.’’

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