Dr Adrian Tsang from Concordia, one of the project leaders along with Dr Paul Matzat from Elanco, told us:
“The idea is to isolate fungal enzymes, based on data generated from fungal genome sequencing, which would break down non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) fractions to release more energy in feed inputs common to the pork and poultry sectors in Canada, from canola to barley to soy and wheat.
This project is the next step in terms of collaborative research we have already undertaken with Elanco, and the groundwork has started.”
Leveraging previous fungal genomes research
Tsang said some of the enzymes and fungal genomes that will be used in the research come from the Genozymes project that Concordia has been involved in, whereby it and its scientific partners have already sequenced many types of fungal genomes such as that of Aspergillus niger or that of Myceliophthora sepedonium.
The Genozymes project examines diverse fungal species chosen for their knack at growing in environmental extremes and their ability in biodegradation, bioremediation and biocatalysis.
The Elanco and Concordia enzyme initiative, which was awarded $6m in funding this week, is one of 12 projects selected for such financial support under Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP).
GAPP projects partner academic researchers with ‘users’ of genomics whether it is industry, provincial governments, non-profits, or other groups, to generate innovations that would be expected to have considerable economic and social impacts "within the near term".
Expected project outcomes
Elanco is also contributing funds to the research, said Tsang. The academic said that company "brings to the partnership an understanding of enzyme R&D and an insight into the benefits of high performing enzymes for the pig and poultry sectors. Elanco, will, of course, also look to commercialize any products that arise out of the project,” said Tsang.
Concordia would receive royalty income, he added.
Delivering enzymes to animals is big business, amounting to $800 million a year globally, and expected to grow steadily, up to 7 to 8% each year, noted Genome Canada when announcing the first two rounds of the GAPP competitions on Wednesday.
The funding organisation said the Elanco and Concordia initiative, if successful, will see lower production costs and increased international competitiveness for Canadian swine and poultry producers in tandem with more competitively priced meat and eggs for domestic consumption and increased use of Canadian grains such as canola in feed production.