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Generation of new yeast strains for improved flavours and aromas in beer and wine

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Aromagenesis (Generation of new yeast strains for improved flavours and aromas in beer and wine)

Reporting period: 2017-12-01 to 2019-11-30

Flavours and aromas define the essence of alcoholic beverages and are unique characteristics of the fermented beverage. The overall taste and aroma results from complex metabolic reactions occurring during fermentations carried out by yeasts. Understanding how yeasts contribute to the complex flavours and aromas of beer and wine is essential for the improvement of existing fermentation technology and for the development of new flavour beverages.
Project AROMAGENESIS aims to dissect the genetic, molecular and biochemical networks involved in the production of flavour and aroma compounds in yeasts used in wine and beer fermentations. Using the knowledge gained from this in depth analysis, a goal of the project is to generate new strains of yeasts with improved or more varied flavour profiles.
Aromagenesis aims to train the next generation of researchers with the knowledge and expertise required for the expanding European beer and wine industries. The network will provide a comprehensive education in yeast genetics, synthetic biology, flavour chemistry and fermentation technology for Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) through individual mentored research training in both academic and industrial institutions, through focussed workshops and inter-project secondments.
AROMAGENESIS brings together a unique multidisciplinary team of 10 beneficiary groups from 7 different countries (7 research institutions, 3 biotechnology industries) as well as 2 industrial partners. The involvement of industry leaders in the consortium ensures that ESRs will be exposed to real challenges facing fermentation industries, and will develop the skills to provide solutions to these challenges.
Project AROMAGENESIS started in December 2017. A major task in the first year was the recruitment of the ESRs and setting up their research in the host institutions. Overall, the recruitment process proceeded without any major deviations from the plan. The recruitment was completed by the end of September 2018 with all ESRs in situ by that date. The ESRs have discussed the individual career development plans (CDP) with their supervisors. The CDPs will be updated throughout the project.

During this reporting period, the consortium activities have focussed on WP 1-5 and WPs 7-10. We have accomplished 22 of the 44 deliverables and achieved 11 of the 17 milestones. The principal work packages relate to research and focused on the choice of the reference strains to be used and the benchmarking of those strains. This task was accomplished with contribution of several members of the consortium. A database of physiological data relevant to yeast fermentations such as thermotolerance, pH range, and flavour profiles was generated (WP1) and standard operating procedures, regarding media composition and growth conditions to follow for the reference strains were shared amongst the groups. As the fermentation conditions vary for lager, wine and non-conventional yeasts, it was agreed the establish fermentation conditions specific to these three broad categories and also to develop institution-specific conditions which will be relevant to the downstream experimental improvement of strains. The flavour profiles of the reference strains were obtained and established as benchmarking parameters. Next, we compiled genomic information on the platform strains that were chosen for flavour improvement (WP2). Whole genome sequencing accession numbers and Genbank assembly accession numbers for the reference platform strains were compiled and made available to all members of the consortium. Where annotation of the genomes of the chosen platform strains was not available, we proceeded to generate the first annotation of these genomes. The annotated genomes were mined for genes encoding for key enzymes of the metabolic pathways involved in flavour production and the gene variants in the platform strains identified (WP2). Having characterised the platform strains, our next task was to devised strategies for generating or isolating strains with improved flavour profiles (WP3). Each beneficiary has chosen different approaches based on the state of the art in the field and on prior personal scientific experience. Following these initial screens, each ESR has chosen a set of mutants/strains for in-depth molecular analyses. The strategies are dynamic and will evolve throughout the life time of the project as new ideas and new findings emerge. Research has commenced to genetically characterise the newly generated strains and the selected best flavour producers (WP4 and 5).

The 14 ESRs have participated in two workshops, the first involved practical laboratory training in yeast genetics at VUB, Belgium in September 2018. The second week-long workshop, consisting of seminars on yeast as a model system, biochemistry of flavour, synthetic biology, high throughput technologies as well as industrial fermentations was held in Valencia, Spain in December 2018. In addition to these consortium-led workshops, the ESRs have availed of training at their home institutions.

The dissemination activities during the first two years have focused mainly on setting up a project website (www.aromagenesis.eu) social media dissemination channels and designing a project logo. Our ESRs have conducted outreach activities for the general public. These include participation in European Science Night and STEM outreach activities. Additionally, our ESRs have presented their data at scientific meetings. As a group we also participated in a MSCA-ITN Project Cluster workshop at the 7th conference on the Physiology of Yeast and Filamentous Fungi in Milan June 24-27, 2019 along with with two other MSCA-ITN consortia, YeastDoc and PacMan.
To date, the ESRs have identified or generated several yeast strains with improved flavour profiles. The molecular characterisation of these strains is currently underway with the aim to identify the key genes/genome segments associated with the altered flavours. It is anticipated that these identified strains will expand the repertoire of yeasts available to the wine and beer industries.
The recruited researchers have been afforded an opportunity to train and be educated at top research and education institutions in Europe and to interact though secondments with key industries in high-through put technologies in beer and wine fermentations. The cross disciplinary nature of the research and training programme will equip the ESRs with a range of skills allowing them to apply the broad knowledge acquired thought this ITN network to their future careers. The skills attained will greatly enhance the future employability of the ESRs. The complementary skills programme offered will prepare the fellows for senior positions in academia and industry and enable them to adapt and thrive in a variety of environments.
The research developed in this project provides scientific innovation and new and exciting opportunities for the major fermentation industries and for emerging craft beer brewing SMEs.
Our interdisciplinary and intersectoral approaches to target yeast natural flavour production will have a disruptive influence on the beverage industry and will generate the next generation of yeast strains to support and sustain a leading role for the European beverage industry.