Monday, March 28, 2022

Spotlight on Rotimi E. Aluko, recipient of the 2022 Protein and Co-Products Division Lifetime Achievement Award

We are delighted to announce that Dr. Rotimi E. Aluko is the recipient of the 2022 Protein and Co-Products Division Lifetime Achievement Award. This award recognizes significant contributions to the advancement of protein and co-products through research and applications. The award is presented every other year.

About Rotimi E. Aluko

Rotimi E. Aluko

Dr. Rotimi Aluko is a professor and Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in bioactive peptides at the Department of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, where he also serves as director of the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals. He obtained a Ph.D. in food science in 1996 followed by postdoctoral fellow work from 1996-1998, both at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. 

Dr. Aluko has over 20 years of work experience as an independent investigator with a  focus on the structure-function properties of bioactive food proteins and peptides. In addition to over 257 peer-review journal article publications, he holds two patents on bioactive peptides, one of which was licensed to a Canadian nutraceutical company for the purpose of commercialization. The American Chemical Society has featured novel scientific discoveries from his lab twice as global press releases. According to Clarivate Analytics, Dr. Aluko is a “Highly Cited Researcher” in the Agricultural Sciences category, which is recognition given to researchers with peer-reviewed journal citations in the top 1% in the world. 

Dr. Aluko has trained over 80 people (undergrads, postgraduates, postdocs, technicians) in various areas of food chemistry and human nutrition. He is a Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Food Science and Technology (CIFST), the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) and AOCS (2018). Dr. Aluko currently serves as the editor-in-chief for the Journal of Food Biochemistry and an associate editor for Current Topics in Nutraceutical Research.

Can you tell us about your current research?

My current research activities focus on two aspects. First is the use of heat and enzyme treatments coupled with membrane ultrafiltration to isolate protein aggregates that differ in size and then determine their functional properties, which can be correlated with protein size. This type of work seeks to develop new protein ingredients for formulation of novel food products. Second involves the use of proteases to produce novel bioactive peptides that modulate various physiological functions such as the cardiovascular system, neurological system and digestive system. The digested proteins are first examined in vitro for enzyme inhibition properties followed by purification and amino acid sequencing of identified active peptides. Active protein hydrolysates and peptides are then tested for efficacy against chronic human diseases using appropriate animal disease models and human intervention trials. Based on the amino acid type and sequence, statistical modelling is then used to reveal positional arrangement that optimize inhibition of enzymes implicated in chronic diseases and/or physiological dysfunctions. The overall aim is to restore homeostasis using the protein hydrolysates and peptide sequences.

What was your reaction when you learned you had won the award?

I was pleasantly surprised and humbled but at the same time very happy. This is because the award represents a strong recognition of my professional work by my peers.

How has AOCS helped develop your career?

AOCS has been instrumental in all aspects of my professional life starting from my first job as an independent junior researcher and up till now as one of the established leaders in the field of food proteins and oilseed chemistry. I started attending AOCS conferences in 2005 and up till today have not missed any except the 2006 meeting. 

In addition to the immense networking opportunities provided by AOCS as a professional organization, my research works have benefited greatly from attending several of the technical sessions across various Divisions. I have also had the opportunity to serve in leadership positions, which culminated in my role as a Division Chair. The experience has strengthened my professional recognition and influence within the global food science community. 

I have also ensured that my students participate in the AOCS annual meetings through poster and oral presentations, which have led to several awards as well as recognition that helped carry my research program as one of the strongest globally.

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