Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24 Page 25 Page 26 Page 27 Page 28 Page 29 Page 30 Page 31 Page 32 Page 33 Page 34 Page 35 Page 36 Page 37 Page 38 Page 39 Page 40 Page 41 Page 42 Page 43 Page 44 Page 45 Page 46 Page 47 Page 48 Page 49 Page 50 Page 51 Page 52uring a recent ceremony in Lisbon on 9 June, the European Patent Office (EPO) showcased the best and brightest in innovation with the European Inventor Award. This award is now in its 11th year, and is presented annually by the EPO to recognise outstanding inventors from Europe and around the world, who have made an exceptional contribution to technological progress, social development and economic growth. The ceremony was attended by nearly 600 participants from the areas of politics, business, intellectual property and science, including António Costa, Portugal’s prime minister, and Carlos Moedas, the European commissioner for research, science and innovation. ‘Today’s award ceremony is a tribute to the spirit of innovation and the work of dedicated individuals who, through their inventions, advance the state of the art for all of us’, said Benoît Battistelli, EPO’s president. ‘The inventions recognised with this year’s award give new hope to people suffering from disease, increase diagnostic efficiency, protect the environment and save thousands of lives on the road. The significance and impact of the work of these inventors underline the importance of the European patent system for the benefit of economic strength and technological progress in Europe’, said Battistelli. Leading up to the ceremony, an independent international jury selected the 15 finalists—three in each of the five award categories—from more than 400 proposals. To qualify for the award, the proposals had to meet specific criteria, including the inventor having been granted at least one European patent for his or her invention by the EPO. The nomination titled, ‘Gluten Substitutes from Corn’ caught the eye of European Seed. VIABLE ALTERNATIVES TO WHEAT DOUGH Italian scientists Virna Cerne and Ombretta Polenghi and their team at Dr. Schär in Italy are at the forefront of gluten-free baked goods development, producing an array of pastas and baked goods which allow people with gluten intolerance to enjoy a versatile and tasty diet without compromising their dietary restrictions. The unique selling point of the company’s food products is the quality of the dough used to make them. In an age of social media and celebrity diets, going gluten-free is practically ‘en vogue’. Legions of wellness-focused foodies swear by their avoidance of proteins found in wheat and other grains, and events are held to promote all kinds of gluten-free products. But for about one per cent of the world’s population, avoiding gluten is not a lifestyle choice—it’s a means of avoiding the agonising side effects of coeliac disease. The fact is, it’s hard to find a viable alternative for wheat dough, which has its own unique chemical behaviour, taste and texture. A simple substitution is not always possible. In 2013, Cerne and Polenghi patented a method for extracting gluten-like proteins (called zein) from corn, and adding them to recipes. The result is a protein supplement that offers the taste and texture of wheat products but lowers the price point, so it can be enjoyed by a wider segment of the population. SOCIETAL BENEFIT Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which gluten damages the fine, bristly inner surface of the small intestine. Since one of the primary functions of the small intestine is to absorb nutrients from food into the bloodstream, coeliac patients often suffer from chronic fatigue, vitamin deficiencies and anaemia. For these people, a strict gluten- free diet remains the only effective treatment against their condition. However, avoiding gluten isn’t always easy, or pleasant. For people with dietary restrictions who still like to eat well, Cerne and Polenghi’s process for extracting protein from corn is a godsend— and a delicious one at that. About one per cent of the world’s population is estimated to suffer from coeliac disease. Incidence rates for adults vary across European nations. At the low end, only about 0.3 per cent of Germans (240,000) are affected, but near the top of the list are Finns, of whom around 2.4 per cent have the condition (120,000). An estimated three million Americans—one in 133—show symptoms of the disease. These numbers are likely to increase with awareness: the condition is considered vastly under- and misdiagnosed. In addition to those with coeliac disease, a growing number of people also report suffering from what is called a gluten intolerance or sensitivity. They express similar symptoms, which vary in severity when they consume grain products. The incidence of gluten intolerance is estimated to occur at a rate six times that of true coeliac disease. ECONOMIC BENEFIT Around the world, people who lived gluten- free in 2015 supported a market worth an estimated €4.27 billion. However, they weren’t only spending their money on alternative breads and pastas. Travellers were booking gluten-free vacations, while health-conscious apps were pointing the hungry to gluten- free restaurants and suggesting the newest delicious recipes. Gluten-free soap? No problem. Gluten- free dog food? Yes, even that. New products are being created every day, it seems— which is why sales of gluten-free products are expected to reach €7 billion by 2020. Meanwhile in Trieste, Italy, where Dr. Schär’s R&D operations are based, new ingredients and processes—from cultivation techniques to sensor technologies—are being explored. That’s how the company, which employs more than 1,070 people, plans to defend its market share—some 35 to 40 per cent of the European gluten-free market—and increase its annual turnover, which currently totals €320 million. Exceptional inventors from Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK receive the 2016 European Inventor Award and Italian scientists are among the finalists for viable alternatives to wheat dough. By: Marcel Bruins GLUTEN SUBSTITUTES FROM CORN Exceptional inventors from Denmark, France, Germany, the Exceptional inventors from Denmark, France, Germany, the SUBSTITUTES 22 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM