Chr Hansen to untangle bacteria genes
an effort understand the genetic make-up of bacteria and see
whether this knowledge can be used to improve probiotic food
The scientists will use bioinformatics, a way of converting complex biological data such as DNA into practical knowledge using complicated mathematical models and statistics, to analyse the bacteria. Martin Pedersen, group leader of the genomics team for Chr Hansen, said that involvement in this project gives the company access to state-of-the-art bioinformatics methods, and it is hope that even more advanced methods will be developed within the four-year duration of the project. "It will help us to better understand and develop our probiotic strains for future products with beneficial effect on human health," he added. Probiotics are live bacterial strains that are generally understood to deliver digestive benefits in the gut. Henning Christiansen, professor of computer science at Roskilde University, Denmark, said that the bioinformatics programme would make it easier to crack the DNA code of lactic acid bacteria by "combining statistics and logic programming in a new and more flexible way with greater potential than before". Lactic acid bacteria is used in a range of dairy-based products, including milk, cheese and butter. During the project, Chr. Hansen and Roskilde University will also work in conjunction with the bioinformatics software company CLC bio and researchers in Aalborg and Copenhagen in Denmark, and Tokyo in Japan. The project has a total budget of DKK 10 million (€1.34 million) of which DKK 5 million (€0.67 million) will be provided by the Danish Strategic Research Council. Probiotics remain a major growth market and most of the major European dairy and ingredients groups believe that they will be one of the dairy sector's major growth drivers over the next few years. According to Frost & Sullivan, the European sector is set to more than triple in value over the next few years, to reach $137.9 million (€118.5m) in 2010. Bioinformatics are becoming an increasingly popular way for companies to try to add value to their products and pull ahead of their competitors. Earlier this year Arla Foods, Europe's second largest dairy company, signed an agreement with US-based Integrated Genomics giving it access to the ERGO database and genomic discovery system to enhance the company's probiotic understanding. The agreement, expected to run through 2007, will see scientists at Arla Foods use the bioinformatics system to characterise and develop lactic acid bacteria. And last year France's Danone group announced a three-year licence with Integrated Genomics.