Precision Fermentation

Can I ask if you are working on (or interested in working on) Precision Fermentation* of Proteins? If so the Good Food Institute (GFI)'s 2024 $250k research grant webinar is on 2 April.

I was disappointed to see that they didn’t have anything on Biomass Fermentation this year. I have clarified with GFI and they are specifically looking to improve the sustainability and technoeconomics of protein Precision Fermentation downstream processing, so the proposal and project would need to be a demonstration of the technological application to Precision Fermentation proteins used in the alternative protein meat sector - so, while it could benefit biomass fermentation downstream processing, that couldn’t be the sole focus.

They are also offering an extra $50k if we bring a partner that hasn’t done altBio before. I have many dewatering, centrifugation (hydrocyclone), assisted sedimentation, floatation & filtration contacts, so if we can come up with a proposal primarily aimed at Precision Fermentation (ideally with some Biomass Filtration overlap) I’d be happy to help us find a partner.

*UPDATE - GFI define Precision Fermentation as using “microorganisms to produce specific functional ingredients.” as opposed to Whole Biomass Fermentation where, in their words, “the microorganisms that reproduce through this process are themselves ingredients for alternative proteins.” (read more)

Thanks to everyone who has contacted me privately about this.

GFI confirmed at the webinar that the proteins don’t need to be from GMO’s but that they do need to improve the organoleptic qualities of meat. So I’ve been trying to find relevant proteins that we could potentially extract from hydrogen oxidising bacteria (HOB).

After getting rather lost in the woods of UniProt closest I came to getting a useful answer was Gemini:

While it’s less common for [specific proteins used in food flavoring and texturization, with a focus on achieving a meaty profile] to directly come from HOB, here’s how HOB could relate to them:

  1. Yeast Extracts and HVPs:
  • Indirect Source of Precursors: HOB produce amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. These amino acids could become part of the larger protein pool in other organisms (like yeast or plants) used to create extracts and HVPs.
  • Potential for Direct Production: Some HOB might produce short peptides with taste-enhancing properties. However, the diversity and complexity of flavor compounds in yeast extracts or HVPs make it unlikely for HOB to replicate them exactly.
  1. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG):
  • Biosynthesis Pathway: Many bacteria, including some HOB, possess the metabolic pathways to produce glutamate, the precursor to MSG.
  • Commercial Production: Currently, MSG is primarily produced through fermentation with other bacteria that are optimized for high-yield glutamate production.
  1. Heme Proteins:
  • Potential for Heme Biosynthesis: Some HOB species might have the metabolic pathways for heme production.
  • Challenges: Heme regulation in bacteria is complex. Its extraction and use as a flavoring from HOB would likely face difficulties in scalability and efficiency compared to current yeast-based production methods.
  1. Texture-Enhancing Proteins:
  • Unlikely Direct Source: The structural complexity of proteins like soy isolate, wheat gluten, and egg albumin makes them unlikely to be directly produced in their functional form by HOB.
  • Alternative Inspiration: HOB may possess unique proteins or polysaccharides that hold unexplored potential for texturizing applications.

Key Takeaway:

HOB are unlikely to replace existing sources of these flavor and texture proteins directly. Their value lies in potentially providing:

  • Novel flavor compounds or flavor precursors
  • Unique proteins with unexplored texturizing properties that warrant further research
  • A more sustainable source of amino acids as building blocks for other food ingredients

So, unless someone else can suggest an HOB (or even methanotroph, etc.) protein that we should be extracting, I think we may need to sit this year’s GFI research out.

Personally, I think biomass fermentation is less complex and therefore likely to produce more affordable & less foods than going for the holy grail of altMeat, so I’d rather not get too diverted from single cell protein.

I’m pretty sure filamentous SCP would be out of scope for the GFI 2024 research grant. But, if I was making altMeat I’d be more inclined to work with filamentous strains - akin to Quorn’s mycoproteins - than to try to extract relevant proteins from HOB.

Actually, I really like the idea of a high heme-content filamentous HOB…