Communities of microorganisms are a key part of fermentation, stability, nutrition, and deterioration of food. New technologies in the previous years have allowed deeper analysis and understanding of these microbial landscapes and interactions. Our technology will allow the industry to take advantage of this knowledge and tailor these bacteria to their benefit, whether it be lengthening shelf-life or increasing fermentation efficiency. It could eliminate production-line bottlenecks of natural bacterial consortiums, by specifically tweaking relevant genes and enzymes involved in the process.
Food enzymes, used widely in the food industry3, are often extracted from microorganisms such as bacteria. It is becoming more common to genetically modify these bacteria to increase production and efficiency. Our tool could further increase productivity by taking advantage of synergistic effects of bacteria in a consortium, as well as increase the safety of genetically modifying organisms by preventing horizontal gene transfer (the sharing of genes between bacteria). This could provide useful in overcoming regulations that are associated with use of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) in the food industry in general.
One example is the process of yogurt production. The main cultures in yogurt are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. The function of the starter cultures is to ferment lactose (milk sugar) to produce lactic acid. The increase in lactic acid produces the yogurt’s flavor, decreases pH and causes the milk to clot, or form the soft gel that is characteristic of yogurt.
Other bacterial cultures, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus subsp. casei, and Bifido-bacteria may be added to yogurt as probiotic cultures. Probiotic cultures benefit human health by improving lactose digestion, gastrointestinal function, and stimulating the immune system.
Using Communique, we can optimize bacterial activity in these processes, thus increasing the lactic acid production and the probiotic cultures activity.