Exploring kīna bioactives

The Bioactive Hub at New Zealand’s largest private research organisation, Cawthron Institute, will be collaborating with East Coast biotechnology company Hikurangi Bioactives to investigate the therapeutic potential of kīna (Evechinus chloroticus) to treat diabetes, heart disease and other serious conditions supported by funding from the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge.

“This project will produce the essential knowledge that is required to build a viable kīna extracts industry in Te Tairāwhiti (East Coast of the North Island),” said Cawthron Institute technical consultant Dr Matt Miller. “Specifically, the research will establish benchmarks for yield and natural variations of bioactive content in wild kīna and provide data supporting its efficacy as a health-promoting food supplement.”

The work has been awarded $300,000 over two years as part of the National Science Challenge’s Valuable Seas Programme.

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“This funding is very significant and we are excited to work with local hapū to explore the health benefits and economic potential of what could be a developing industry in our region,” said Hikurangi Bioactives managing director Manu Caddie.

Kīna are an important source of kaimoana and Dr Miller stresses that the research will focus on utilising the parts of the kīna that remain once the edible part has been removed.

“We are very mindful of the importance placed on kīna by the hapū and whānau on the East Coast and around Aotearoa New Zealand said Dr Miller. “This project has the potential to develop an industry around what at present is a waste product from the shellfish.”

The first stage of the project involves consultation with hapū and sharing more detailed information with them about the scope and potential of the research. A number of hapū have already expressed interest in the project and hapū members have been engaged to advise and support the research with hapū.

“Sea urchins, the family to which kīna belong, typically achieve premium prices around the world,” says Mr Caddie. “This is not the case for kīna, partly because of its look but also because the way it tastes is challenging for some consumers overseas.”

“We see huge potential for kīna to provide a novel health-promoting supplement, however. We particularly think it could be very beneficial for the treatment of diabetes, heart disease and inflammation – all of which are health issues of real significance within our community.”

Cawthron Institute has established a collaboration with renowned Japanese diabetes researchers to assist with the project.

“We believe there is a supplement offering health benefits in the kīna and it will be of real interest in large and growing markets in Asia – specifically China and Japan,” says Dr Miller. “This could be the beginning of a successful and sustainable new niche aquaculture sector on the East Coast. Using good science to support community development is our aim.”




Photo credits: www.poiphotography.co.nz

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