Darwin

DARWIN’s solid scientific background is reflected in our multiple R+D activities.

Some are focused on developing new products and

services while others arise from public-private collaborations with national and international entities, aimed at enhancing knowledge transfer.

ENHANCED BIOPROSPECTING PLATAFORM

From a biotechnological point of view, the in-depth characterization and exploitation of a microorganism requires of its cultivation and maintenance in a laboratory. Therefore, there is a growing need to develop new culturing techniques. At DARWIN we are developing an innovative platform characterized by generating physical-chemical gradients of different nutrients, mimicking the natural environment where microorganisms live. The objective of this R+D line is to increase the number and diversity of microorganisms grown and isolated in our laboratory.

Funding: Ayudas para contratos Torres Quevedo 2016 (ref. PTQ-16-08227). Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades.

CAROTENOID-PRODUCING MICROORGANISMS

The accumulation of carotenoids plays an important role in the protection of bacteria against various types of stress, in particular against stress generated by solar radiation. There is currently a growing demand for natural dyes or pigments – obtained mainly from plants – in the food, pharmaceutical, cosmetic or textile industries. This project addresses the study of microbial communities inhabiting sun-exposed environments (in particular, the surface of solar panels) from a double perspective: basic and applied. The main objectives are to describe the taxonomic and functional characteristics of this extreme environment, to contribute to the discovery of microorganisms with physiological activities of interest and test these activities in vitro and in vivo (for example, protection against oxidative stress), and to optimize the production of carotenoids through metabolic engineering.

Funding: Programa de Doctorados Industriales del MICINN (DI-16-08227).

ADAPTATION AND OPTIMISATION OF BIOINFORMATIC PIPELINES FOR MINION SEQUENCING TECHNOLOGY

Oxford Nanopore sequencing technology has revolutionized the omics science landscape due to its affordable price and ability to generate long sequences, one of the biggest limitations in this field up to now. However, this technology has other limitations: poorer quality of the generated sequences, lack of specific software, and lack of criteria for homogenization and optimization of runs (multiplexing of samples, analysis time, etc.). At DARWIN we aim to develop an optimized methodology to apply this technology to all areas of metagenomics, from the taxonomy level (marker genes and / or shotgun) to the functional analysis. This work includes performance tests to assess the quantity and quality of the reads using different sample preparation kits, and tests to check the performance of different pipelines and bioinformatic tools available on the market or generated in-house.

Funding: Ayudas para formación de investigadores en empresas (Doctorados Industriales 2017) (ref. DI-17-09613). Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades.

IMPROVING THE EFFICIENCY  BIOGAS PRODUCTION

Anaerobic digestion is a technology that allows the microbial conversion of biomass present in sewage sludge into methane and carbon dioxide. The yield and biogas quality reached by a biogas plant depends on the microorganisms involved in the anaerobic digestion process, and the composition of these microbial communities is one of the keys to improving anaerobic digestion. At DARWIN we collaborate with Bio-H2 Umwelt GmbH and the Robert Boyle Institut (both in Germany) in order to characterize this microbial conversion process and to increase the efficiency of biogas production.

BIOROBOOST: FOSTERING SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY STANDARDISATION THROUGH INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

The synthetic biology field applies engineering principles to redesign biological circuits with different applications and, like any engineering discipline, it relies on the use of well-defined, universal and robust standard components. DARWIN participates in the European BioRoboost Project: Fostering Synthetic Biology standardization through international collaboration, a CSA within the Horizon 2020 framework, in which a total of 20 European partners participate and whose main objective is to contribute to standardization in the field of synthetic biology.

Funding: Comisión Europea en H2020 (Project ID 210491758).

A NOVEL IN VIVO PROBIOTIC SCREENING PLATFORM BASED ON THE MODEL ORGANISM GALLERIA MELLONELLA

 

Mammalian models are closer to humans in evolutionary terms. However, the use of mammalian models is expensive, it only allows small number of simultaneous trials, and it involves ethical considerations. As an alternative, non-mammalian model organisms can be used. Although less complex, these models are capable of generating results that can be extrapolated to humans. DARWIN’s main objective within the framework of the NEOTEC project is to develop a new screening technology based on the use of G. mellonella as a prototype of human diseases (specifically, oxidative stress and obesity), as well as to develop new technologies for the generation of mutants of this organism. This model organism has a number of advantages over other low-complexity model organisms, such as Danio rerio, Caenorhabditis elegans or Drosophila melanogaster: it can grow at 37 ° C, it can be dissected, and exact amounts of treatments can be provided either through injection or force-feeding.

Funding: Subvención del Programa NEOTEC 2018: Implantación de un nuevo modelo de cribado de probióticos (expediente SNEO-20181022). Centro de Desarrollo Tecnológico Industrial (CDTI).

SELECTION AND CHARACTERIZATION OF FISH PROBIOTICS

The global increase in fish consumption implies the need for sustainable aquaculture strategies. Therefore, the development of diets that include probiotic supplements has great potential, and also contributes to reducing the use of antibiotics in this sector. At DARWIN we have screened our collection of microbial strains, and selected and characterized probiotic strains for their application in aquaculture. The aim is to improve the resistance of fish to six different pathogens for which there is currently no commercial product available in Europe.

Funding: Subvención para un Proyecto de Creación de Empresas de Base Tecnológica (CREATECCV 2018) (expediente IMCBTA/2018/8). Institut Valencià de Competitivitat Empresarial (IVACE) y Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional (FEDER).