An international science community that focuses on rare sugars
The International Society of Rare Sugars (ISRS) celebrated its ten-year anniversary 2010. The goal of the science community is to promote the research and production of rare, unnatural sugars as well as various applications related to them.
Finland’s representative in the society is Professor Matti Leisola from the Aalto University School of Chemical Technology. He is a founding member and the Vice President of ISRS. The President of ISRS is Professor Ken Izumori from Kagawa University.
Matti Leisola’s interest in unnatural sugars began approximately twenty years ago when he was the head of research at the Finnish sugar company Suomen Sokeri, later known as Cultor. Cultor was the first company in the world to begin producing sugars rarely found in nature, such as xylitol which is the most widely known example. When Leisola began his career as a professor at the Helsinki University of Technology, he wanted to do something that no one else had done before.
Leisola had heard of Professor Izumori who had spent his entire career performing research on rare sugars. Izumori visited Finland in the summer of 2000 after being invited by Leisola and suggested that they should establish ISRS.
In ten years, the community has gradually grown and expanded and participants now include researchers and industry representatives, such as Danisco, ADM, which produces biotechnological products and fructose syrups, French Roquette, and several Japanese companies. The majority of the researcher members are Japanese, but other countries are also represented. According to Leisola, the society is not seeking further expansion.
In autumn 2011, the ten-year anniversary conference of the society was held in Japan and Leisola gave a presentation on the history of xylitol. He has become a celebrity in Japan, where xylitol made its breakthrough ten years ago, and has been interviewed on the subject for Japanese television and print media.