Collaborative Research Network (CRN)

Dr Huihua (Amy) Liu

Research Fellow

Federation University Australia

Amy Liu’s research with the CRN has the potential not only to provide health benefits, but also to increase employment opportunities in regional Victoria. It is an ambitious task for Dr Liu, who is embarking on her first ‘real research job’.

Dr Liu is looking to help researchers in the CRN develop microencapsulation technologies that enable unstable bioactive ingredients to enrich food and beverage products. Specifically, this technology would enable functional ingredients found in fish oil to be delivered in a powder form. The product could be used to enrich foods such as breads and cereals, and beverages.

The technology would have a range of health benefits through the delivery of beneficial nutrients, and its development would create employment in Ballarat.

“Fish oil, omega-3, has many benefits for human health, for brain development and so on,” Dr Liu said.

“But many people don’t like the flavour. Or if they are taking it in capsule form, they forget to take their capsules.

“What I am doing is working to turn fish oil into a powder that doesn’t have the fishy taste or smell.

“That way we can put it into bread, into milk, into a whole range of products, giving people the benefits of the fish oil, but without the after-taste.”

When this has been achieved, a variety of local and international companies have expressed interest in collaborating in the development of appropriate products with the potential to create new industries and new employment opportunities in Ballarat.

Dr Liu is pleased that she has been given the opportunity to work with some of the leading researchers in her field through the CRN in the seminal stages of her career.

“I just finished my PhD at Curtin University in Perth last year and this is a really amazing job for me as my role changes from student to independent researcher,” she said.

“I am specifically trained to undertake research on biodegradable materials and the relevant modelling and bioactive material enzyme encapsulation areas.

“Already I have had a lot of support from my colleagues here in Ballarat. They are 100 per cent behind me and my work and I am really comfortable here.”

With fellow FedUni-based researcher Dr Benu Adhikari, Dr Liu’s project is titled: Development of microencapsulation technologies for the delivery of unstable bioactive ingredients into food and beverage products.

Re-enforcing the wider collaborative aims of the CRN, in working towards developing the powdered fish oil, Dr Liu has been collaborating with one of Australia’s leading researchers in biotechnology, Professor Colin Barrow at Deakin University.

“Through the CRN, I am getting access to a wide range of expertise and technologies which will be very helpful to my research,” she said.

Professor Barrow holds the Chair of Biotechnology at Deakin and one of his main research interests is Omega-3 biotechnology and bioprocessing.

He has just signed a significant memorandum of understanding with the Beijing Pharma and Biotech Centre (BPBC) and is also involved with a major project in India that could give Australian access to a $5 billion international market. This project is looking at developing more efficient but less expensive methods for the production of omega-3 concentrates for functional foods, pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals.

Dr Liu’s research with the CRN combines two of the important aims of the CRN: that of regional science and technology innovation and health innovation.