Natural powerhouse: Australia’s Northern Rivers region to become country’s Natural Products Hub

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

A scientist conducting experiment in the laboratory.  ©Getty Images
A scientist conducting experiment in the laboratory. ©Getty Images

Related tags Australia Natural health products naturopathy

The Northern Rivers region is set to become Australia’s Natural Products Hub, following an AUD$1.072 million (US$740k) investment by the government.

The Department of Regional New South Wales (NSW) injected the funds to the National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM) and Southern Cross University.

The two institutes will be responsible for devising plans to develop the Northern Rivers region into Australia’s Natural Products Hub.

The Hub will bring together universities, industry partners, and key peak bodies for coordinated and multidisciplinary research and innovation, according to Professor Jon Wardle, foundation director of NCNM.

For instance, the hub is will contribute to the high-value-add medicines and innovative food streams of the National Manufacturing Priorities.

Australia’s six National Manufacturing Priorities are namely 1) medical products, 2) defence, 3) food and beverage, 4) resources technology and critical minerals processing, 5) recycling and clean energy, and 6) space.

This also means that it will create sustainable industry partnerships and co-designed collaborative projects that meet industry needs.

In the process, it will enhance regional research capacity and skills training for researchers, industry partners and postgraduate students.

At the same time, it will leverage on existing and new international partnerships with overseas organisations that focus on natural and traditional medicine.

Within NSW, the Hub will promote a sustainable natural health industry involving local manufacturers, farmers, education and health facilities by leverage on existing infrastructure.

Other goals include centre growth in the natural products sector in regional Australia, as well as contribute to the economic growth and recovery for Lismore which was hit by one of the worst floods in the country last year. 

The plans will help boost this particular economic sector through developing a coordinated strategy to leverage regional Australia's strengths in this area, Professor Wardle added.  

Clinical trials

In an interview during January’s Nutrachampion podcast,​ Professor Wardle said that NCNM, together with companies and other universities, has successfully bid for government funding to support cannabis medical research.  

The centre is also running other randomised controlled clinical trials on weight loss and diabetes.

One of the trials look at the effects of an herbal formula for weight loss, conducted by lead researcher Dr Janet Schloss.

Another trial looks at whether olive leaf extract is safe and effective in improving blood glucose control and quality of life in adults with type II diabetes. The trial will be conducted in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, conducted by lead researcher Associate Professor Matthew Leach.

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