Development and Commercial Exploitation of Novel Fungal Strains for use in the Food Industry

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: School of Life Sciences

Abstract

Fungi are used in the production of a number of foodstuffs. We have developed a novel technology which allows us to generate new fungal strains that might have enhanced properties for use in the production of certain food products. This would include the production of strains with novel flavours which would have societal and market appeal; strains with lowered content of potentially harmful 'mycotoxins' and salt use, which would therefore be of benefit to health; and strains with faster growth rates that would be of benefit to the food producers due to reduced manufacturing costs. We aim to use out novel technology to produce a range of new fungal strains, which will be screened for desirable combinations of such flavour, health and growth characteristics. These will then be used in trials with taster panels to gauge the appeal of the new strains, before possible large-scale production and exploitation of the novel strains in collaboration with partners in the food industry.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The overall aim of work was to develop new fungal strains for use in the food industry, specifically for production of blue cheeses. Work made very good progress with most target milestones met as below.
(1) We successfully isolated over 40 samples of Pencillium roqueforti for sexual crossing work from different UK and worldwide blue cheeses.
(2) We set up sexual crosses with these Pencillium roqueforti strains, and by collecting the arising sexual offspring we were able to generate 30 novel strains for possible production use (from Roquefort, Stilton and Gorgonzola parents).
(3) The 30 novel strains were screened by a newly developed lab flavour system (GC-MS based) and HPLC for toxin presence (a safety measure) and the most promising taken forward for cheese production trials. However, this aspect of work was delayed as a previously published lab method for flavour determination that we had planned to use was found to be unreliable, necessitating the development of a new assay. Thus, time was lost on the project meaning that not all milestones could be achieved.
(4) Eighteen novel strains, together with production strains as controls, were used in small-scale cheese production trials with an industrial partner. Resulting cheeses were tested by professional and amateur cheese tasting trials. Of 20 cheeses tested, 4 out of the top 5 rated for taste included, excitingly, some of the novel strains produced.
(5) Preliminary work was undertaken to assess the possibility of production of colour mutants of Penicillium roqueforti. A UV-mutation system (i.e. non GM) was successfully devised which allowed generation of a variety of promising colour mutants (e.g. green, red-brown, fawn, bright blue).
(6) From work arising a patent has been filed to protect the Intellectual Property and methods for generating new strains. Also further Follow-on Fund support has been obtained to now further test the selected strains in commercial-scale production trials, to conduct necessary safety screening, and to generate colour mutants of these for taste and market appeal analysis.
Exploitation Route Work is still in progress and a further round of follow-on funding has been granted to allow development for commercialisation of the work. A patent has been filed to protect the Intellectual Property and methods for generating new strains. Already two industrial partners have expressed strong interest in using some of the new starins in commercial production. Therefore it is anticipated that the novel fungal strains being generated will be of use in the food industry, either through licensing or a joint manufacturing agreement being set up.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

 
Description Strain development began in this reserach project, and was continued under a subsequent Follow on Fund project. This ultimately led to the development of a series of novel fungal strains for blue cheese production. These are being patent registered by the University of Nottingham. A start-up company (Myconeos Ltd) was then launched in summer 2018 to commercially produce and market the novel strains, under licence from the University of Nottingham. This company has now moved into labs at BioCity Nottingham as of Feb 2020, and commercial sales are planned from June 2020. There are 1.4 FTE employees.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Retail
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Follow-On Fund
Amount £211,187 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/N012631/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2016 
End 02/2017
 
Description HERMES
Amount £25,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Nottingham 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2015 
End 05/2016
 
Description Seeding Catalyst Award
Amount £25,000 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/SCA/Nottingham/17 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2017 
End 02/2018
 
Title Novel method for screening of volatile flavour production 
Description Designed new protocols for incubation of the fungus Penicillium roqueforti in an artifical milk model system to allow assessment of production of flavour volatiles linked to taste. 
Type Of Material Technology assay or reagent 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The novel method has been found to be more reliable and quicker than an exisiting published method. Work has been statistically validated. 
 
Description Industrial collaborations to test novel fungal strains 
Organisation Cropwell Bishop Creamery
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Maintained and built on contacts previously made with the industrial partners concerning opportunities offered by the novel fungal strains for the food industry. Specifically, we generated novel strains and produced this as commercial inoculum which we supplied to the partners for trial cheese production.
Collaborator Contribution All partners were keen to assess the novel fungal strains and have offered to trial the strains in small-scale production, assess commercial potential, and provide feedback on their utility. Specfically: (1) Highland Fine Cheese. This partner very kindly produced 19 trial cheeses using either the novel strains we had produced or control commercial strains, at no cost. This involved a significant goods-in-kind contribution due to labour, materials, and storage costs. (2) West Highland Dairy. This partner very kindly provided expertise in taste trials of the cheese produced by Highland Fine Cheese, drawing on 30 yeasr experience in the market. This involved a fair goods-in-kind contribution as no charge was made for the taste trials and time involved, only travel costs were re-imbursed. (3) Cropwell Bishop Creamery. Have agreed to make some trial cheeses in Spring 2016, work in progress. (4) New Food Innovation. Have liaised between cheese producers and University partner to ensure success of the project, and have also opened talks with Supermarket representatives about possible commercial sales of the final cheese products.
Impact (1) Iniitial cheese production trials have been performed. THis has allowed screening of an initial large sample of novel fungal strains, which has now been reduced to a smaller set of 'new tasty' strains for full-scale production trials. (2) Work still in progress to derive final strains and enter commercial production.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Industrial collaborations to test novel fungal strains 
Organisation Highland Fine Cheeses
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Maintained and built on contacts previously made with the industrial partners concerning opportunities offered by the novel fungal strains for the food industry. Specifically, we generated novel strains and produced this as commercial inoculum which we supplied to the partners for trial cheese production.
Collaborator Contribution All partners were keen to assess the novel fungal strains and have offered to trial the strains in small-scale production, assess commercial potential, and provide feedback on their utility. Specfically: (1) Highland Fine Cheese. This partner very kindly produced 19 trial cheeses using either the novel strains we had produced or control commercial strains, at no cost. This involved a significant goods-in-kind contribution due to labour, materials, and storage costs. (2) West Highland Dairy. This partner very kindly provided expertise in taste trials of the cheese produced by Highland Fine Cheese, drawing on 30 yeasr experience in the market. This involved a fair goods-in-kind contribution as no charge was made for the taste trials and time involved, only travel costs were re-imbursed. (3) Cropwell Bishop Creamery. Have agreed to make some trial cheeses in Spring 2016, work in progress. (4) New Food Innovation. Have liaised between cheese producers and University partner to ensure success of the project, and have also opened talks with Supermarket representatives about possible commercial sales of the final cheese products.
Impact (1) Iniitial cheese production trials have been performed. THis has allowed screening of an initial large sample of novel fungal strains, which has now been reduced to a smaller set of 'new tasty' strains for full-scale production trials. (2) Work still in progress to derive final strains and enter commercial production.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Industrial collaborations to test novel fungal strains 
Organisation New Food Innovation
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Maintained and built on contacts previously made with the industrial partners concerning opportunities offered by the novel fungal strains for the food industry. Specifically, we generated novel strains and produced this as commercial inoculum which we supplied to the partners for trial cheese production.
Collaborator Contribution All partners were keen to assess the novel fungal strains and have offered to trial the strains in small-scale production, assess commercial potential, and provide feedback on their utility. Specfically: (1) Highland Fine Cheese. This partner very kindly produced 19 trial cheeses using either the novel strains we had produced or control commercial strains, at no cost. This involved a significant goods-in-kind contribution due to labour, materials, and storage costs. (2) West Highland Dairy. This partner very kindly provided expertise in taste trials of the cheese produced by Highland Fine Cheese, drawing on 30 yeasr experience in the market. This involved a fair goods-in-kind contribution as no charge was made for the taste trials and time involved, only travel costs were re-imbursed. (3) Cropwell Bishop Creamery. Have agreed to make some trial cheeses in Spring 2016, work in progress. (4) New Food Innovation. Have liaised between cheese producers and University partner to ensure success of the project, and have also opened talks with Supermarket representatives about possible commercial sales of the final cheese products.
Impact (1) Iniitial cheese production trials have been performed. THis has allowed screening of an initial large sample of novel fungal strains, which has now been reduced to a smaller set of 'new tasty' strains for full-scale production trials. (2) Work still in progress to derive final strains and enter commercial production.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Industrial collaborations to test novel fungal strains 
Organisation West Highland Dairy
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Maintained and built on contacts previously made with the industrial partners concerning opportunities offered by the novel fungal strains for the food industry. Specifically, we generated novel strains and produced this as commercial inoculum which we supplied to the partners for trial cheese production.
Collaborator Contribution All partners were keen to assess the novel fungal strains and have offered to trial the strains in small-scale production, assess commercial potential, and provide feedback on their utility. Specfically: (1) Highland Fine Cheese. This partner very kindly produced 19 trial cheeses using either the novel strains we had produced or control commercial strains, at no cost. This involved a significant goods-in-kind contribution due to labour, materials, and storage costs. (2) West Highland Dairy. This partner very kindly provided expertise in taste trials of the cheese produced by Highland Fine Cheese, drawing on 30 yeasr experience in the market. This involved a fair goods-in-kind contribution as no charge was made for the taste trials and time involved, only travel costs were re-imbursed. (3) Cropwell Bishop Creamery. Have agreed to make some trial cheeses in Spring 2016, work in progress. (4) New Food Innovation. Have liaised between cheese producers and University partner to ensure success of the project, and have also opened talks with Supermarket representatives about possible commercial sales of the final cheese products.
Impact (1) Iniitial cheese production trials have been performed. THis has allowed screening of an initial large sample of novel fungal strains, which has now been reduced to a smaller set of 'new tasty' strains for full-scale production trials. (2) Work still in progress to derive final strains and enter commercial production.
Start Year 2014
 
Title FUNGAL STRAINS, PRODUCTION AND USES THEREOF 
Description Patent claims development of four novel strains of the fungus Penicillium roqueforti for use in cheese and other food production. Also the methods to develop the new strains via sexual crossing and UV methodology. Also given PO code P3495GB00. 
IP Reference 1905360.2 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2019
Licensed Yes
Impact Strains developed have been licenced to start-up company Myconeos for commercial exploitation
 
Title Novel Fungal Strains for Cheese 
Description A patent application was submitted to the UK patent office on 17th November 2015 entitled "Novel Fungal Strains for Cheese". The patent related to the invention of novel Penicillium strains, the production of novel Penicillium strains, and the use of novel Penicillium strains, in particular in the production of cheese. The application covered 22 pages including text and supporting scientific data. The patent had two main claims: (1) The invention provides a method of producing strains of Penicillium by sexual reproduction. Specific methodology relating to sexual crossing methods was claimed, and the outcome that preferably the strain produced by sexual reproduction has a novel flavour profile; preferably this flavour profile is different to that of either parent used in the sexual cross. Biochemical methods to distinguish the novel strains were described. Strains produced by the crossing method might be used in the production of foodstuffs and cheese in particular. Alos the production of other useful metabolites wuth possible health beneficial properties, lower mycotoxin content and altered enzymen activity. (2) A method of producing a novel fungal strain with change in the colour of the spores produced was also claimed, using strains derived from sexual crossing. This comprised the step of mutating the strain to a novel colour, with examples provided. 
IP Reference GB1520209.6 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted
Licensed No
Impact Have ongoing discussions with commercial partners about a possible spin-out company or technology translational partnership.
 
Company Name MYCONEOS LIMITED 
Description The company Myconeos (https://myconeos.com/) was formed as a spin-out from work arising from the BBSRC follow-on-fund awards together with a BBSRC Agri-Food Seeding Catalyst Award. The previous research led to the identification of a series of novel fungal moulds that can be used for the production of novel blue cheeses with improved flavour and colour, which were deemed very attractive in cheese taste trials. Myconeos has the remit to produce, market and further develop the moulds using the technology developed under the previous BBSRC research. 
Year Established 2018 
Impact The company has established a relationship with the the UK SME company LIfe Sciences Group (LSG: http://lifesciencegroup.co.uk/) to co-produce the novel strains at higher-scale market production levels in Food-approved manufacturing premises. Myconeos has also identified a commercial distributor, JKM Foods (http://www.jkm-foods.com/), for the novel strains who is an existing major UK supplier. Talks are ongoing with the DTI to establish international distributors. Commercial strain production has now started, with strains due to be available from the start of March 2019.
Website https://myconeos.com/
 
Description Presentation at Artesan Cheese Makers Meeting hosted by Neal's Yard Cheeses, August 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Neal's Yard organised a meeting on the 'Science of Artesan Cheese Production' attended by large, medium and small-scale cheese manufacturers in the UK and also some international attendees. The meeting lasted two days and I was invited to present a 30 minute talk on my BBSRC-funded research leading to development of novel fungal strains for blue cheese production.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://scienceofartisancheese.com/