Enzymatic Production of Fish Lipid Profile- ON-349

Desired discipline(s): Engineering - chemical / biological, Engineering, Biochemistry / Molecular biology, Life Sciences, Food science, Chemistry, Natural Sciences
Company: Anonymous
Project Length: Longer than 1 year
Preferred start date: As soon as possible.
Language requirement: English
Location(s): Toronto, ON, Canada
No. of positions: 2-4
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About the company: 

As part of the creation of a new alt-protein company, ~5 funded R&D projects are being offered to potential partners with the aim of producing components for a realistic, “raw” plant-based fish fillet. Projects are to last 6-12 months and produce tangible results that will aid in a venture capital fundraise for this new company, after which additional research may continue. Each project is designed to tackle a key problem inherent to existing plant-based seafood products in their inability to mimic  actual fisht - including the taste, texture, mouthfeel, color, macronutrients profile, cooking behavior, and added nutritional benefits (ex: Omega 3’s). The target species is Atlantic salmon; should research findings lend themselves better to other species, alternating the target species will be considered. 

This project is being funded and led by Chris Bryson, an impact angel investor. Chris was the Founder and CEO of Unata (acquired in 2018 by Instacart), an eCommerce software provider. He founded Unata in 2011 and grew it to ~100 employees, becoming the 52nd Fastest Growing North American Tech Company (PROFIT 500 2016), Canada's #2 best small business workplace (Great Place to Work 2017),  and one of Canada's Top 20 Most Innovative Companies (CIX Awards 2016).

Please describe the project.: 

This project seeks to develop a proof of concept (POC) for an enzymatic process that utilizes algal biomass and/or lipids to yield a product with a near complete lipid profile of Atlantic salmon oil (17.9 % EPA + DHA).The goal is to use this algal-derived substitute for Atlantic salmon oil in an alt-protein salmon fillet that is nutritionally similar and recapitulates the taste and texture of salmon.

Terrestrial plants are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids that serve as precursors for the very long-chain omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, but these two fatty acids are present in very low levels in land plants. Genetically modified oleaginous plants do produce very long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, but their use has both regulatory and consumer acceptance issues. Therefore algae, which can range from 1-70 % lipids total, and contain omega-3 fatty acids in appreciable amounts, seem like a good, non-animal derived raw material to produce the lipid complement of different fish oils. Algae, which can fix nitrogen and CO2 and are under utilized for human consumption, also represent a sustainable and abundant source material.

To recreate the whole lipid profile of any fish oil represents a fairly sophisticated metabolic engineering project. The process design will likely utilize unique combinations of lipases as well as potentially novel lipase enzymes. Synthesis approaches may include numerous strategies such acidolysis, alcholoysis, esterification, transesterification or interesterfication. It will also be important to develop a POC reaction system, and optimize numerous process parameters such as the immobilization support, the solvent(s) used, as well as pH and temperature. Analytical methods will be required to analyze free fatty acids, triacylglycerolds, diacylglycerols, monoacylglycerols and other lipids (e.g. GC-MS), and to monitor fatty acid positioning (e.g. NMR). The lab-scale process should focus on minimizing input material use, waste creation and synthesis steps, and maximizing product creation and the bioavailability of health promoting EPA and DHA.  

Required expertise/skills: 

We are looking for candidates with a background and strong skills in Biochemistry; Analytical Chemistry; Chemical Engineering;  Food Science.