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University of Tartu Granted Patent for Bacterium after Eight Years

14.09.2010

From Estonian Public Broadcasting

Marika MikelsaarEight years later, researchers from the University of Tartu, who discovered the lactic acid bacterium, Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3, received a patent in Europe for its use as a food ingredient in 24 countries.

Known in Estonia for the Hellus product line, which includes yogurts and kefirs, the bacterium has already become the university’s most profitable national patent, said Aktuaalne Kaamera. Russia and the US already have patent-holders for the bacterium.

An EU patent could mean a breakthrough in the drug industry. The University of Tartu is already discussing the bacterium’s medicinal potential with a company.

“This is a sign of quality, which shows that the scientific achievement, now recognized with a patent, is unique; it is truly one-of-a-kind in Europe,” said one of the bacterium’s discoverers, head researcher in microbiology, Marika Mikelsaar. “It is also a protected investment.”

The university’s medical biochemistry professor, Mihkel Zilmer, is also one of the bacterium’s discoverers.

“Until now, there hasn’t been a single application, in which a bacterium would act as an antioxidant. Lately, antioxidants have come to have a pretty significant role as supplements and medicines, but until now they have only been found in various plant products, such as rosehip tea, nettle tea and everything of that sort," said Zilmer.

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