High-lutein Marigold

Lutein is the most abundant plant carotenoid. Purified lutein has two main commercial applications:

Food & Nutraceutical (eye health) – Lutein is found to be concentrated in the macula, a small area of the retina in the human eye responsible for central vision. Research has shown a direct relationship between lutein intake and pigmentation in the eye., and that an increase in macula pigmentation decreases the risk for eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Animal Feed Pigmentation (e.g. poultry skin, egg yolk) – Lutein has primarily been used in the animal feed market as a natural colorant. Lutein was traditionally used in chicken feed to improve the color of broiler chicken skin. Polled consumers viewed yellow chicken skin more favorably than white chicken skin. Such lutein fortification also results in a darker yellow egg yolk. Today the coloring of the egg yolk has become the primary reason for feed fortification.

For commercial purposes, lutein is purified from marigold (Tagetes erecta) flowers, where it accumulates in the petals, giving the flowers their characteristic orange-yellow colour. Marigold is the crop used to produce 95% of global pure lutein.

HRB beliefs that the value chain for purified lutein can be further optimized. We aim to achieve this through significantly increasing the lutein content of marigold, through genetic modification. Using an existing proof of concept and proven laboratory techniques, including the CRISPR-Cas9 technology, HRB will modulate gene expression in marigold to significantly increase lutein content. Of note, this will not alter lutein itself, only its content in the flowers.

For this line of R&D, HRB has an active collaboration with Wageningen University (WUR), among the world’s foremost agricultural research institutes.In addition, HRB received validation and funding from the  European Union for this work, under the highly prestigious Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme  (No 684186).