SIFBI's capabilities in food science and biotechnology

SIFBI Capabilities
The Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI) is a research institute that brings together A*STAR’s research capabilities in areas such as food, nutrition, public health, biotechnology, manufacturing, agri-food technology, and safety research under one roof. 
 
In doing so, SIFBI aims to bring cutting edge biotechnology in the forefront to drive innovation in food and many other applications. These capabilities will support the development of solutions for the needs of the Asian market, such as the discovery and production of health and sustainable foods. It also accelerates the transformation of the food industry, capturing new opportunities in established industries such as advanced manufacturing, specialty chemicals, biopharmaceuticals, and food manufacturing.
 
SIFBI helms multi-disciplinary expertise beyond the process of the Discovery, Biotransformation, Fermentation, Safety, Nutrition and Analytics.

SIFBI Capabilities Discovery

Natural Product Library

The A*STAR Natural Product Library (NPL) comprises of a diverse collection of 37,000 plant specimens, 120,000 environmental microbial strains and 300,000 organic extracts derived from these plants and microbes. Approximately 25% of the extracts have been chemically fingerprinted using an automated LCMS characterisation system. It is a rich resource for the discovery of natural substances with functional properties suitable for food, consumer care, agrochemical and pharmaceutical applications.

Taste Receptor Platform

Our Taste Receptor Platform studies molecular underpinnings of tastant and taste receptor recognition with in vitro approaches. Our capabilities in assay development, high throughput technologies for screening, and in silico screening allow us to rapidly screen naturally-derived molecules for novel and healthy food ingredients. We work with companies to provide R&D insights on their development ingredients and their processes to develop better ingredients and products for consumers.

Screening / Microbiology

Equipped with state-of-the-art automated liquid handling systems and multi-mode microplate readers, we design, develop and implement a wide variety of miniaturized cellular and biochemical assays to query the extracts or microbial strains in NPL for bioactive compounds, enzymes or strains with functional properties suitable for various industrial applications. Our in silico structure-function modelling approach further enables screening in a more targeted fashion. Once a lead substance or strain has been identified, we use bioinformatics tools to uncover new producers of target compounds, new compound analogues or strains with similar biochemical properties through chemical screening and genome mining.

Capabilities Biotransformation

Adaptive Learning Evolution

We aim to advance the manufacturing of ingredients for food and consumer care through the industrialization of biology to ultimately provide consumers with sustainable, clean, natural-identical and GMOs free products. Specifically, our activities encompass generation and optimization of industrial whole-cell microbial factories by cellular evolution. We use a combination of low- and high-throughput robotically-assisted methods to increase the natural ability of microbes to produce industry-relevant compounds when grown in selective conditions. This array of methods have been successfully used to increase the production of a variety of different compounds in both the consumer care and food industry.

Metabolic / Protein Engineering

We develop and apply synthetic biology and metabolic engineering approaches for the engineering of biological systems, at the protein, biosynthetic pathway, and production host levels to address challenges in nutrition, healthcare and biobased chemicals production. Our tools and platforms aim to deliver better technological solutions for biocatalysis and microbial cell factory development.

Capabilities Fermentation

Biocatalysis & Fermentation

Our research is to design and improve bioprocess for the production of food ingredients and chemicals using microbial strains or enzymes. We also aim to optimize the physiology of microorganisms by controlling growth conditions as well as engineering bioreactor configurations for the enhanced synthesis of target products. To translate the scientific proof of concepts into economic value, we provide engineering solutions with expertise in bio-concept design, biocatalysis, fermentation and scale-up research.

Downstream Processing

Downstream processing is to separate and purify final products derived from fermentation or biocatalysis, including a number of unit operations such as cell disruption, filtration, extraction, distillation and chromatography to provide samples with desirable specification for the next step functional evaluation. In combination with biocatalysis and fermentation, we aim to contribute the value chain of food and biotech sector by prototyping manufacturing process for bio-based products with end to end solutions.

SIFBI Capabilities Safety

Risk Assessment & Toxicology

Our research seeks to improve on current methods for risk assessment of chemicals both intentionally added (e.g. flavours) and unintentionally present (e.g. mycotoxins) in food and consumer products. By studying the source, level of exposure and effects of chemicals within the body, with a specific interest on effects across the gastrointestinal tract, we aim to better understand how environmental chemicals impact human health as well as improve ways to assess the safety new ingredients and products entering the Singapore market.

SIFBI Nutrition Capabilities

Clinical Nutrition

The Nutrition group will provide state-of-the-art evidence based science to substantiate the philosophy that ‘food is the new medicine’. The research emphasis is on understanding the causes of obesity, including energy intake/expenditure and establishing optimal diets for the prevention and management of chronic diseases (e.g., cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes). The ultimate objective is to promote healthy ageing via a multidisciplinary approach by bringing together expertise in food science, nutrition and human trials.

Food Structure

Our group aims to increase our understanding of the interactions of micro- and macromolecules in foods and the physical and chemical properties of food carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids to enhance the technical and nutritional quality of foods as well as the sensory performance. The program represents a unique synergy between foods and human health that generates innovative approaches to develop food products to enhance human health and societal well-beings ultimately.

Sensory

The Sensory and Ingestive Behaviour team focuses on how food sensory properties influence calorie selection and eating behaviors, and through this impact energy intake and body composition.  The Sensory team also supports product reformulation to improve both the sensory appeal and health profile of products.  By taking a lifespan approach, our goal is to understand how sensory cues can be used to direct food choice and influence food intake behaviors, and through this develop food-based strategies to improve diets and health.

Food Process Engineering

This platform will be a one-stop centre to facilitate food product development from bench-top to pilot plant scale-up. Housing a variety of state-of-the-art food processing equipment, in addition to high pressure processing, it will complement the vision and scope of SIFBI. The facility will enable both SMEs and MNCs to work closely with the in-house expertise on food technology, sensory science, bioprocessing and engineering in order to develop and launch market-ready high value foods and ingredients.

SIFBI Capabilities Data Analytics

Analytical Chemistry

Our state-of-the-art facilities and cutting-edge expertise provide a shared platform for a broad range of analytical chemistry support and specialized analysis to the research groups at SIFBI, as well as industry partners. Our capabilities include targeted and untargeted analysis in rapid chemical dereplication, differential analysis, metabolomics/lipidomics, large scale purification/enrichment of complex samples, structure elucidation of bioactive molecules, detection of adulteration, compound quantification and standardization. The ultimate goal is to support the development of interdisciplinary collaboration across SIFBI and to encourage innovations in functional food and biotech sector that will enhance human health and quality of life.

Computational Biology & Omics

Our group performs a number of cutting-edge analyses to interpret the complex, dynamic and large-scale datasets obtained from time-series transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics. Depending on the type of data, the team develops a number of custom-made computational, mathematical and data analytic tools to investigate and predict an optimal outcome of a desired experiment. For example, for the optimal production of an industrially relevant compound, the models developed can test numerous targets in silico and identify/rank the best targets before actual experiments are performed. This reduces laborious experiments, thereby, saving valuable time and cost for projects.