$14.8M grant supports Singapore partnership on precision fermentation

Yong-Su Jin pictured with benchtop equipment in a laboratory
Yong-Su Jin

Feeding an ever-growing human population is one of the major grand challenges we face — especially with the impact agriculture can have on climate change. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers and partners in Singapore are taking a novel approach to this challenge: creating food building blocks at the microbial level.

The team, led by Food Science & Human Nutrition Professor Yong-Su Jin, has received a five-year, $14.8 million-dollar grant to develop the “Centre for Precision Fermentation and Sustainability” (PreFerS). Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF) made the award to the Illinois Advanced Research Center at Singapore Ltd. (Illinois ARCS), a U. of I. affiliated center.

PreFerS will focus on enhancing the reliable, cost-effective production of safe, nutritious, and appetizing foods. More specifically, the research will advance technologies for microbial cell engineering — creating metabolic pathways in microorganisms — to convert readily available compounds like sugars into targeted, nutritional molecules including alternative proteins, healthy lipids, and vitamins.

Through this work, PreFerS seeks to improve food supply chain resilience, reduce environmental impacts of food and nutrient production, and directly address hidden hunger — the growing epidemic of micronutrient deficiency.

Read more from the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE).

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