Fermentation is an essential player in the quest for sustainable and economical production and formulation of alternative proteins that aptly mimic animal-derived proteins. Towards this goal, cost-effective carbon and nitrogen sources derived from environmentally benign processes are essential. Notably, lignocellulose-derived sugars represent renewable and cheaper alternatives to refined sugars and food sources as carbon sources. However, successful deployment of lignocellulose-derived sugars in the fermentative production of proteins and additives used in formulating alternative proteins is plagued by the co-generation of inhibitory compounds accumulated during the deconstruction of lignocellulosic materials to release fermentable sugars.
To address this challenge, Dr. Ujor and his team employ adroit engineering of established microbial workhorses as well as screen for novel strains and species that can efficiently neutralize or break down these inhibitory compounds. To minimize reliance on synthetic ammonium—a product of the Haber-Bosch Process characterized by high energy input and emission of large amounts of CO2—they are exploring nitrogen-fixing bacteria as potential drivers of fermentative production of alternative proteins.
Their results show that overexpression of inhibitor detoxifying enzymes arms select bacterial species for increased and rapid removal/tolerance to lignocellulose-derived inhibitory compounds. Similarly, Dr. Ujor and his team have identified select bacterial species with the inherent ability to utilize the inhibitory compounds as carbon sources. These organisms represent exciting candidates for the fermentative production of alternative proteins, as well as molecules used as binders and foaming agents during the formulation of alternative proteins. Furthermore, creating an environment that supports fermentation and nitrogen fixation significantly minimizes the exogenous supply of synthetic ammonium during fermentation.
Join GFI for our next Science of Alt Protein seminar to delve into Dr. Ujor’s research, which has important implications for sustainable and cost-effective protein production via fermentation.
Meet the speaker
Dr. Victor Ujor
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, DEPARTMENT OF FOOD SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON
Dr. Ujor obtained his bachelor’s degree in Applied Microbiology and Brewing from the Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Enugu, Nigeria. He received his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Westminster in London, UK, in Applied Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology. After a postdoctoral experience at Ohio State University, he served as an Assistant Professor at the same institution before joining the University of Wisconsin-Madison as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Food Science in 2021.
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