Melbourne University Laureate Professor Eric Reynolds, has been recognised in the Prime Minister’s prizes for science.
Prof. Reynolds was awarded the $250,000 PM’s Prize for Innovation for his discovery of a protein in dairy milk that repairs and strengthens teeth.
He made the breakthrough discovery 30 years ago, when he and colleagues confirmed that casein, a unique form of calcium in dairy, did indeed reduce the risk of tooth decay.
With that protein discovery he went on to invent Recaldent, a chewing gum that is used by millions of people every day.
“We broke up the protein and made these little ‘nano-complexes’ of calcium stabilised by fragments of the casein protein.”
They showed that this material helped teeth remineralise and repaired the enamel.
Products using Recaldent have generated more than $2 billion to date saved an estimated $12b in dental treatment costs worldwide.
Prof. Reynolds now leads the University of Melbourne’s dental school and works with businesses oral health products.
Dairy Connect chief executive Shaughn Morgan hailed Eric Reynolds as a ‘true trailblazer’.
“This win reinforces Dairy Connect’s public policy position that milk from mammals – in our case dairy cows – greatly supports human nutrition when compared with lesser benefits delivered by plant-derived drinks.”
Mr Morgan said Recaldent demonstrated dairy’s potential and showed why Australia should reform its regulations to help the industry compete in an international market.
“The beverage market has seen a sharp rise in the number of dairy-imitations calling themselves ‘milks’ made from plants such as rice, soy, almond and oats,” he said.
“There has been confusion among consumers, some of whom equate the great nutritional benefits of cows’ milk with the plant-drink alternatives.
“The European Union Court of Justice this year ruled in favour of the need to differentiate nutritionally between dairy products and plant-derived products.
“We would like to see Australia keep up with the progressive dairy labelling laws in overseas markets.”