BioWorldDec. 1, 1992Vol. 4, No. 233


By Michelle SladeAssociate Editor

Calgene Inc. announced Monday that it has exclusively licensedfrom the University of Tromso in Norway the genes thatconvert glucose into trehalose, a simple sugar that preservesflavor and texture in frozen, dehydrated or dried foods.

Trehalose is a non-reducing disaccharide composed entirely ofglucose, a basic building block of starches and complex sugars.Studies show that the compound preserves the "fresh" flavorand texture of foods such as milk and eggs by reducing thedegradation of proteins and other compounds during freezingor drying.

According to Lloyd Kunimoto, the company's vice president ofcorporate development, trehalose currently sells for about$100 a pound. Calgene (NASDAQ:CGNE) of Davis, Calif., hopes todramatically reduce the price of the product throughengineering trehalose genes into a crop that is a sucrose-accumulator, such as sugar beet and sugarcane, or even a high-glucose accumulator, such as potato, said Kunimoto.

"We'll extract and purify the trehalose to sell primarily as alow-cost food additive," he added.

Kunimoto told BioWorld that Calgene will also directly expressthe trehalose gene into fruits and vegetables that are processedwhole, such as frozen peas, to produce a higher-qualityprocessed food product. "The thing that you don't get (withother additives) is retention of fresh-like flavor and texture,"explained Kunimoto.

Under the terms of the agreement, Calgene has paidundisclosed licensing fees to the University of Tromso and willpay royalties on future product sales. Although Kunimoto couldnot yet estimate the compound's potential market value, hesaid, "It's one of the most exciting broad-spectrum technologyfinds we've come across recently."

Kunimoto said that to the best of his knowledge, no othercompany is working with trehalose at the level anticipated byCalgene. "We recognized its use to the food industry, got ourhands on it before anyone else, and the normal patent routeshave been followed," he said.

The trehalose-synthesizing genes were isolated andcharacterized by a research team led by Arne Strom at theUniversity of Tromso, Norway's leading research university.Strom and his team have studied the role of trehalose inprotecting cells subjected to osmotic stress for the past 10years.

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.