Yissum - Research Development Company of the Hebrew University

Anti-Oxidants Rich, Non-GMO Tomatoes

Posted by Yissum - Research Development Company of the Hebrew UniversityResponsive · Innovative Products and Technologies · Israel

Summary of the technology

Anti-Oxidants Rich, Non-GMO Tomatoes
Project ID : 8-2019-6744

Yissum - Research Development Company of the Hebrew University

Description of the technology


  • Zeaxanthin is a carotenoid pigment that provides health benefits as a dietary anti-oxidant, and is also a preventive agent against degenerative diseases. Specifically, it is thought to inhibit the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most prevalent cause of blindness in developed countries.
  • The major sources of zeaxanthin in our diet are red peppers and yellow corn that contain low zeaxanthin concentrations of ca. 5-10 micrograms/gr fresh weight (μg/g FW). Although there is no recommended daily intake value for zeaxanthin, the most recent studies show health benefits when consuming 2 mg/day supplement. The challenge is to provide a cheap and readily available source of natural zeaxanthin, for both fresh consumption as well as for industrial production.
  • The tomato is the largest vegetable crop in the world and a major source of carotenoids in our diet. Breeding tomatoes with high levels of zeaxanthin will provide a sustainable and inexpensive source of this phytochemical for global consumption and production.

Our Innovation

A novel tomato variety that accumulates high levels of the natural phytochemical zeaxanthin. Our technology is based on classical breeding techniques using unique genetic mutations and DNA markers. The zeaxanthin tomatoes will not be considered “genetically modified” (GMO), thus the fruits and extracts should face no marketing limitations.


Tomato fruits accumulate the red carotenoid pigment lycopene. We used classical genetic breeding methods with mutations that alter carotenoid production to achieve zeaxanthin levels that are as high as 35 μg/g FW.

Our currently available zeaxanthin tomato is the first demonstration of a high-level source of zeaxanthin in a non-GMO tomato fruit, and already has commercial viability. The only precedent of zeaxanthin enrichment in tomato was reported in GMO plants (8-13 μg/g FW).

Our goal is to develop a tomato cultivar, i.e. a commercial variety, presenting even higher levels of zeaxanthin, based on this prototype, through conventional breeding techniques.

The Opportunity

  • The zeaxanthin tomatoes will be valued as high-nutritional vegetables:
  • Fresh market vegetables
  • Raw material for industrial extraction of non-transgenic tomato phytochemicals
  • We expect, based on our past color breeding, that we will be able to increase the level of zeaxanthin up to 70 μg/g FW.

Project manager

Ilya Pittel

Project researchers

Daniel Zamir
HUJI, Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences
Plant Sciences and Genetics

Joseph Hirschberg
HUJI, Faculty of Science
The Alexander Silberman Institute for Life Sciences

Related keywords

  • Agro chemicals
  • Agriculture
  • Technologies for the food industry
  • Food quality and safety
  • Micro- and Nanotechnology related to agrofood
  • Food Processing
  • Food Additives/Ingredients/Functional Food
  • Food Technology
  • Agrofood Industry
  • Biological Sciences
  • Biology / Biotechnology
  • Agricultural genetic engineering applications
  • Food and Beverages
  • Agricultural chemicals
  • Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, Animal Husbandry and Related Products
  • agriculture

About Yissum - Research Development Company of the Hebrew University

Technology Transfer Office from Israel

Yissum Research Development Company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Ltd. Founded in 1964 to protect and commercialize the Hebrew University’s intellectual property. Ranked among the top technology transfer companies, Yissum has registered over 8,900 patents covering 2,500 inventions; has licensed out 800 technologies and has spun-off 90 companies. Products that are based on Hebrew University technologies and were commercialized by Yissum generate today over $2 Billion in annual sales.

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