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Agricultural & food biotechnology


Despite precision fermentation technology was developed in the late seventies of the past century making possible the production of chemical and drugs like synthetic insulin, its application to the food industry is somewhat recent. This growing interest within the agri-food sector has been translated in the creation of several start-ups and companies making use of this technology.


Our food proteins portfolio


Brazzein is a highly water-soluble, low molecular weight sweet protein naturally present in the fruit of West African plant Pentadiplandra brazzeana. The protein was first isolated in 1980s and is composed of only 54 amino acid residues, having 4 disulfide bonds in its structure. Besides, its pronounced heat stability compared to other proteins (it can withstand temperatures around 100 °C for 2 hours) makes it suitable for different food applications, especially those products that are pasteurized.

It is known to be the ultimate sugar alternative for consumers: being 1600 times sweeter than sugar enables the development of food products lower in calories.

Soy leghemoglobin

Soy leghemoglobin is a hemoprotein found in the roots of soybean plants. It is particularly important because it contains a molecule called heme, which is responsible for the characteristic flavor and color of meat. For this reason, soy leghemoglobin is a key ingredient in plant-based meat substitutes to replicate the taste and texture of real meat. 

Nowadays, some plant-based meat products incorporates soy leghemoglobin expressed by yeast, often used to mimic the heme found in animal-based meat.

Chymosin (Rennin enzyme)

Traditionally, chymosin has been known as the main enzyme responsible for milk protein coagulation. It is a 36 kDa proteolitic enzyme found in rennet that can precipitate caseins in milk and promote curd formation during cheese making. It is naturally produced by gastric cells in newborn rumiants.

The increasing world cheese production, needing higher volumes of chymosin to satisfy this demand, along with the desire to decrease the number of slaughtered calves, has stimulated the search for alternative sources of chymosin. One such alternative source is the use of recombinant chymosin produced by microorganisms. Three of the most commonly used microorganisms for this purpose are Aspergillus niger, Kluyveromices lactis and Escherichia coli, species whose genetic and metabolic pathways are well known. This makes of them very useful systems for precision fermentation of recombinant chymosin.

*Protein structures of brazzein (left), soy leghemoglobin (middle) and chymosin (right).


What is the precision fermentation?

Precision fermentation is a technology making use of genetically engineered microorganisms like yeast or bacteria, producing very specific and valuable end-products like proteins. These tailor-made microorganisms are thoroughly customized making use of cutting-edge genetic design tools to yield proteins. Strain engineering plays a pivotal role in enhancing the production of the desired protein within the cellular framework by leveraging an array of expression vectors and host strains.