Call for partners: Using sustainable omega-3 rich algae oil to improve gut-brain health

Currently, omega-3 intake, especially DHA, is often too low. Omega-3 fish oil has shown to be highly involved in brain and immune development in young children. Several other health claims have been made for DHA, including maintenance of normal brain and cardiac function, blood pressure and vision.
The main source of DHA is fatty fish, however, for reasons of sustainability and food style trends, the use of DHA from microalgae is an attractive plant-based alternative.


The ultimate objective of this research initiative is to improve the market perspective of sustainable omega-3 rich algae oil by demonstrating health benefits.

To achieve this, we will investigate the following aspects:

  • Chemical composition of the algae oils
  • In vitro intestinal homeostasis and metabolism induced by the algae oils
  • The effect of the algae oils on the intestinal microbiota
  • Intestinal uptake and bioavailability after digestion of the algae oils
  • Uptake and inflammatory effects within the gut immune system
  • The ability to cross the blood-brain barrier
  • The effect on brain health, e.g. dementia or neuroinflammatory disorders   

Studies will be carried out both in in vitro models and in patients with brain health complications such as dementia and neuroinflammatory diseases. Our model systems will explore the potential of different oils by investigating the aforementioned properties. In this way, more sustainable omega-3 products can be designed.

Impact on industry

By investigating the chemical and biological properties of omega-3 rich algae oils, we are working towards sustainable and healthy products which can help to achieve the advised amount of DHA intake, which is 250mg per day, and is almost never met. Incorporating DHA-rich algae oils that have been shown to have health benefits into different food products will decrease the amount of chronic inflammatory diseases and increase brain health.

By exploring the chemical properties and different compositions of algae oils, and their digestibility and bioavailability, health claims can be validated and used for marketing purposes. Furthermore, the algae oils can be incorporated in different matrices, which can be tested in digestion models as well as in patients. This is an unique opportunity to validate the effectiveness of the products in a scientific evidence-based manner.

The budget for this proposal is estimated to be 1-1.5m. The above described projects are being developed for application to the TKI subsidy, a Dutch governmental program sponsoring applied research. Each project requires at least one Dutch company partner, but additional partners from abroad are welcome to join. Granted projects receive 50% subsidy funding. The other 50% is contributed by industry partners, of which up to half (25% of total) may be in-kind. Aim is to have 5-6 industrial partners, which results in 37.5-40k€ cash contribution of partners in 4 years (9.5-10k€/year).

This consortium is open for participation from ingredient companies, end product companies, and biotech companies. In return for in-cash and in-kind contributions to the project, partners can specify desired topics for research, and provide direction to the research activities. Unfortunately we are not able to reply to solicitations from research institutes or enquiries from students related to this project.