EFIB review
© David Bohmann
15 October 2021

EFIB 2021: The Green Deal and Biotechnology

At EFIB 2021, representatives from business and politics finally met again in-person, where biotechnology as a driver of the bioeconomy and the hope for an early amendment of the European genetic engineering law was discussed.

Good discussions, many new ideas and a pleasing internationality – this was the conclusion of our colleagues after they had participated in EFIB 2021 in Vienna. The “European Forum for Industrial Biotechnology and Bioeconomy” had finally taken place in analog form again and the participants, who were almost euphoric about it, had visibly enjoyed meeting in Vienna and finally being able to talk “face-to-face” once again. Below you will find some personal impressions of our colleagues from BRAIN Biotech AG and Biocatalysts Ltd.

Dr. Esther Gabor, BRAIN Biotech: “It was a really good event! Industry, start-ups and associations were represented, and the presentations focused on the concrete implementation of the Green Deal. There was no doubt among those present that biotechnology makes a particularly important contribution to its fulfillment! But where exactly can biotechnology make the greatest impact? Two important directions emerged from the presentations: agri-food and sustainable materials.

Food demand will have more than doubled from 2010 to 2050, and terrestrial as well as marine agricultural areas are already nearly maxed out. Anne Bogdanksi of the UN organization FAO therefore called for rapid innovative solutions, citing as an example omega-3 fatty acid produced biotechnologically by microalgae, which can replace fish as a source of the fatty acid that is important for humans.”

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Benedict D'Alessandro, Biocatalysts: “EFIB was fantastic this year, seeing people in real life – What a treat! The general feeling of difficulties faced when scaling up were echoed around the conference, similar to Future Food Tech the week prior. There were also interesting innovations such as Alpha-proteins new technology to create high quality protein from waste streams, utilising the humble mealworm.

However, the message that stuck with me was the requirement for a better collaborative effort on public engagement with Biotechnology. Olivier Rigaud from Corbion put the point across quite nicely, that without a joint focus on education by industry, there would be continued challenges faced by regulators. Once people are accepting of Biotechnology, the regulators will follow.”

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Dr. Patrick Lorenz, BRAIN Biotech: “Several presentations made it clear that the agri-food sector includes not only food but also packaging: here, too, biotechnology can contribute to the development of new, bio-based materials or develop biochemical ways to recycle plastic.

In the food sector, biotechnology can particularly accelerate the replacement of animal protein with modified plant and fermented microbial protein - using precision fermentation. The progress already seen in the field of so-called alternative proteins in the USA and Asia is enormous. Europe is lagging far behind here - owed, on the one hand, to the outdated official regulation of genome editing and, on the other, to comparatively lengthy approval procedures by European food authorities.”

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Dr. Michael Krohn, BRAIN Biotech: “Developing new fermentation processes, providing suitable microorganisms, upscaling production processes, optimizing proteins with protein engineering - these were all topics that were in the focus of users at EFIB; and of course also the topic of genome editing. In the German-speaking world, this is also often referred to as ‘gene scissors‘, but internationally it is known as the CRISPR-Cas tool, which enables the development of such processes precisely in the first place. So I was pleased to be able to reach well into the general trend of the conference with my talk ‘Precise editing in living organisms‘! The talk was about the development of the BEC nuclease at BRAIN and the potential for the targeted microbial and plant use of this technology.“

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Nico van Schoot, Biocatalysts: “This edition of EFIB was all about ‘Delivering the Green Deal’: industrial biotech has an ever growing responsibility to implement technologies that improve processing efficiency in the food chain and accelerate replacement of animal- with modified plant protein. However, especially EU regulatory bodies are slow to accept technologies such CRISPR genome editing to make this happen. Ms. Edith Schippers, President @ DSM put it quite clear: we should all act like ‘troubadours’: educate and spread the message about biotechnology being a safe tool that has been used for decades in many industries including Food.”

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