New shared facility for faster and more efficient protein selection: the Robolector
There is a high demand for alternative proteins due to the protein transition. The Robolector, a new type of fermenter, enables companies and institutes to accelerate the protein selection more efficient and faster. In cooperation with Foodvalley NL and with a subsidy from the Regio Deal Foodvalley, this equipment was purchased by Wageningen University and Research. The device is located at GINKGO Bioworks in Utrecht in the Netherlands.
This technology can be used to develop proteins from fungi and is available for shared use by other companies and institutions. With Robolector with samples can be taken automatically, even at night, which means an enormous increase in efficiency during research projects. Normally, the process of selecting the best strains takes up to twenty weeks; with the help of the Robolector, we can see more quickly which strain is the best and which process conditions work best', says Martijn Bekker, researcher at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research.
More possible through shared use
The device is set up at GINKGO Bioworks in Utrecht in the Netherlands. Pascal van Alphen, head of the fermentation research department at GINKGO Bioworks Netherlands explains: 'To make proteins using fungi, especially for the food industry, GINKGO Bioworks was in dire need of purchasing the Robolector. However, as an organisation we did not have the means to purchase the device on our own. Foodvalley NL and WUR helped us bring together various interested parties. Through shared use of this technology and with financial support from the Regio Deal Foodvalley, the Robolector could be purchased. The aim of this Regio Deal is to stimulate cooperation and activity in the field of sustainability. And so, the various interests came together perfectly.’
Chance of success significantly higher
Martijn Bekker says: 'This device will enable us to better develop fundamental knowledge, which will allow us to participate at a higher level in academic EU projects. We can also start a process faster for public-private research. So, we will soon have more to offer, also to companies. The process can then be fully outsourced to us. As an example, he mentions the WUR project Plentitude, in which fungal protein is being developed. This can now be quickly optimised with the Robolector.
In research, and therefore also in cooperation with companies, there is always a risk that no results will be achieved. Cornelis Mijnders, who focuses on business development at GINKGO Bioworks, says that the Robolector increases the chances of success. 'I think that is the most important thing about this purchase. Whether it is used for a customer or for a research project: it is easier to convince that you are going to be successful through the more effective selection process.'
Cooperation and knowledge exchange
All parties involved are open to mutual sharing of knowledge and experience; GINKGO Bioworks, Wageningen University & Research, Foodvalley NL and the Biology Department of Utrecht University (UU). The exchange of knowledge can also be continued with future users. That is the great advantage of the agreements made on shared use. Of course, the most sensitive matters cannot be shared, but the knowledge about the device can. The common driving force is the realisation of the protein transition.
Mijnders sees many opportunities in the cooperation. ‘Thanks to the Robolector we meet each other. I see possibilities, such as applying for subsidies for (EU) projects. And for us it is good if we can use the expertise of the universities, so that we can be more effective towards our customers.’ Mijnders also believes it is important for students to gain experience in a company. ‘We also see a responsibility for ourselves in this: to bring young people to the market well prepared from the outset.’
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