EMBL Article – Discovering New Enzymes To Upcycle Food Waste

Enzyme Cocktail

BlueRemediomics partners from EMBL published a new in-depth case study on how the MGnify microbiome-protein database is helping researchers identify cocktails of enzymes to extract proteins from animal bones and other by-products.

  • To support a growing global population, the food industry needs to rethink production processes while simultaneously reducing waste.
  • With the right biotechnological solutions, animal by-products, such as bones and skin, could be upcycled into protein powder for animal and human consumption.
  • Researchers are using the vast protein space in EMBL-EBI’s MGnify microbiome data resource to identify new enzymes that can help extract animal proteins from bones in a robust and sustainable manner.
BlueRemediomics Relevance

One significant issue in animal production is the large amount of waste products, such as bones and skin. Researchers have been exploring ways to use more of an animal’s body mass in food production, reducing waste and increasing yields, such as using them in protein powders. Bones are particularly robust, however, making it a challenge to degrade and extract protein from them. To overcome this difficulty, researchers need a powerful agent, such as an enzyme cocktail.

This work of identifying suitable enzymes for bone degradation is ongoing in the context of the wider BlueRemediomics project coordinated by Rob Finn at EMBL-EBI. BlueRemediomics aims to systematically catalogue marine microbe datasets to facilitate the development of industrial processes that reduce waste and increase the reuse of natural and man-made products and by-products.

As part of this research, BlueRemediomics partners at NORCE found a solution at the bottom of the ocean. They studied worms and microbes that live on the seafloor and ‘eat’ the bones of dead whales, extracting nutrients. These bacteria contain specific enzymes with bone-degrading properties. With the help of Christine Orengo from University College London (UCL), the team is leveraging artificial intelligence to search huge volumes of data to find the most suitable enzyme candidates.

The Final Products

Once a suitable enzyme or cocktail of enzymes is identified, researchers work with companies such as Biocatalysts Ltd, a UK-based company that manufactures enzymes on an industrial scale. Further down the line, other companies can then use such mass-produced enzymes to process animal bones and create protein powder, which can be upcycled into products for human consumption and animal feed. NORCE scientists are in discussion with Norilia – a Norwegian company working on creating new products from meat and poultry industry plus-products with the mission to ensure that the whole animal is used and waste is minimised. 

Read the full article through the link below!