SKUAST-K launches anticancer functional foods startup



BK News

Srinagar, Dec 22: Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir has launched the first-of-its-kind faculty-student startup, ‘Cashmir Biotech Pvt Ltd’, an anticancer functional foods startup, at the Shalimar campus.

The research-driven startup, formulated under the aegis of SKUAST-K Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (SKIIE) Center, aims to design high-value anticancer functional foods from underutilised plants endogenous to Kashmir.

Dr Khalid Z Masoodi, an assistant professor at the SKUAST-K’s Division of Plant Biotechnology, Faculty of Horticulture, along with his two MSc students, Dar Murtaza and Aaqib Hurrah, has founded the startup. Cashmir Biotech has already commercialised its first functional food. Magic Food is considered a safe, non-toxic plant-based futuristic functional food possessing TaxO an anticancer molecule. The startup aims to design high-value functional foods from underutilised edible plants endogenous to the Kashmir Valley.

Vice Chancellor, SKUAST-K, Prof Nazir Ahmad Ganai, in his address during the launch function, congratulated Dr Khalid Masoodi and his students for building the significant startup. He said there is tremendous potential for such research-based and innovation-led startups, and the rich bioresource-base present in this Himalayan region can be tapped for producing high-value superfoods, nutraceuticals and medicines to strengthen the bioeconomy of J&K He further reiterated that as per NEP 2020 and NISP the faculty members should take the similar initiatives to encourage and guide their students into developing innovation-led startups and create future entrepreneurs. 

Director Agriculture Kashmir Chowdhary Mohammad Iqbal, who attended the launch event, stressed the need for similar Agri-based startups to encourage youth to become job providers rather than job seekers. Director Extension SKUAST-K Prof Dil Mohammad Makhdoomi, Registrar SKUAST-K Prof Tariq Masoodi, Deputy Commissioner J&K Drug & Food Control Shagufta Jalal, Senior Scientist IIIM Srinagar Dr Shahid Rasool; Dr Syed Nisar, Associate Professor of Medical Oncology, Dr Malik Sajad Ahmed Associate Professor of Urology at SKIMS and Professor Mohammad Ashraf Bhat, Head Division of Plant Biotechnology and various scientists and officers of the university also attended the function.

Developed by Dr Masoodi and his team, Magic Food is a designer food that harbours an anticancer molecule TaxO. It has been developed from an edible underutilised plant which has been used as food for ages in Kashmir but its use has diminished over time.

While providing details, Dr Masoodi says Magic Food targets the androgen receptor (AR), a key gene involved in prostate cancer. AR is a therapeutic target for most of the medicines available in the market against prostate cancer. AR controls PSA, the main marker for Prostate cancer.

“We are marketing the first line of Magic Food- TaxO, and we propose the use of TaxO as a functional food that can be consumed on daily basis by populations vulnerable to prostate cancer. Director Planning and Monitoring and an Expert in Food Science and Technology, Prof Haroon Naik, in his address, highlighted the need for the consumption of functional foods for the prevention of different diseases which have emerged in our population due to changes in food habits.

Magic Food was recently highlighted in the introductory documentary of Department of Science and Technology, Govt of India in its Kashmir Expo Startup for Livelihood. Magic Food got attention from various foreign markets as well. “However, instead of selling the technology, our Vice-Chancellor took the lead under the Government of India’s Make in India, Innovate India and Self-Reliant India initiatives to make way for the first faculty-student startup of the university,” said Masoodi.

Cashmir Biotech Pvt Ltd is incubated at SKIIE Centre, SKUAST-K under NEP-2020 and NISP for commercialising Magic Food.

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