Do you have what it takes?
Do you have a brilliant idea that will have a great impact on the world? Do you have a bucket full of patience and persistence, access to a sizeable bag of money, and a contact list overflowing with competence? Are you ready to work day and night, 24-7? Then you are ready to take the first of many steps to develop a commercial product and start a profitable business! The obstacles are many and you will need a lot of enthusiasm to overcome them all. But that is what ScanOats is about. We provide a dynamic, enthusiastic and resourceful research centre with a great network of contacts. And that is why we assembled almost fifty private and public researchers, public officials, innovation consultants and other interested in Lund two weeks ago to discuss the conditions of the innovation process. Read more about it below.
Research Coordinator ScanOats and Newsletter editor
Reporting from ScanOats first workshop
The first ScanOats workshop was arranged in Lund on 2 May. 46 participants enjoyed an intense afternoon of presentations on the topic “From idea to market – how to turn those brilliant research ideas into commercial products”. Tomas Dahlman from the Swedish Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation started by presenting the national food strategy and showing what the Government is doing to support knowledge and innovation, an increased productivity and the commercialization of research. Of particular interest to ScanOats may be the interactions with Chinese actors in the oat value chain. Emma Nordell from Lantmännen continued by presenting the “Greenhouse” which is an educational programme for those with innovative business ideas (see also the April Newsletter). The next theme will be Food Tech in the autumn 2018, with Agro Tech following in the spring of 2019. Sofia Ehlde from Oatly outlined the history and experiences of their successful liquid oat products, emphasizing that the idea itself is only a tiny part of the innovation process and also discussing the challenges of keeping up the energy “on the march” after the initial success. Peo Crona from Swedish Oat Fiber gave a number of good advice on how to make business, such as accepting that everything takes a long time (but you need to speed up), that everything costs money (so you need investors early on), you need to know the market, and you need to stay focused throughout the entire process. You also need to accept that you may lose control over your invention, and understand that getting 10% of a lot of money is better than getting 100% of no money at all. Olof Olsson from CropTailor next explained that you need a bright idea, a great network of valuable contacts, and a lot money to turn research into something of commercial value. Most importantly, your own engagement as well as good timing will make the difference between success and failure. Gunilla Önning from Probi then showed some good examples of research being turned into valuable products. After the coffee break, Dan Henriksson, Helle Friis Svenstrup and Niclas Dahlberg from Awapatent explained the difference between patent and plant breeder´s rights for plant variety protection, as well as gave us an exposé over the patent landscape for the novel CRISPR technology (if you are interested, you may hear more details at SLU in Alnarp on 24 May – see Coming events below). Per Mercke from Lund University Innovation System and Nicholas Jacobsson from SLU Holding finished the programme by explaning what they can do to help researchers: support to business development, financial support, IP law and legal advice, commercialization, contacts and education. The take-home message is that the university can be your first investor and your best co-owner. The concluding panel discussion tackled the question of how to create a “Silicon valley” in Lund and regain the pace and dynamic vibe, and what kind of investments the research community would like to see from the Swedish Government. Returning to oat, it was asked why exactly Swedish oat varieties are supposed to be so good? Well, apart from the high quality, large seeds, late maturation and thin shells for easy processing, the easy answer is that the trading partners decide what is good and they want Swedish oats!
A glance at the ScanOats research: WP1 – Is one oat genome sequence enough?
A genome is basically a very large molecule of DNA. Genomes are certainly not static and it is becoming increasingly recognized that they are dynamic, can modify their structure through epigenetic mechanisms and increase in size quickly by polyploidization or gradually by accumulation of mobile genetic elements. In WP1 we have already sequenced the Belinda oat variety to more than 260X coverage (which equates to more than three TRILLION basepairs of raw data) using the Illumina Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) platform. With the help of NRGene, the world leading denovo genome assembly company, we have also assembled the sequenced pieces into the first complete hexaploid oat genome. One may now ask whether our work is done, or whether we would ever need to sequence another molecule of oat DNA again? The answer is yes, absolutely yes! The Belinda oat variety was developed by Lantmännen and represents a long process of selective breeding using parental oat varieties each with novel properties and traits of their own. During the process of selection, the breeder is choosing desired traits, which ultimately are connected to genes and often-large regions of the genomes from each of the parental lines. So, in effect we have sequenced and assembled the DNA that made it to the final Belinda variety only. What about the genes that were de-selected? What about novel genes that never had a chance of being integrated into the Belinda genome simply because the varieties possessing them were not included in Lantmännen’s breeding program? This brings me to the concept of the ‘pan-genome’, which for our purposes refers to the total “catalogue” of genes within all hexaploid oat species. The international oat community is gathering its resources to build a pan-genome – for this to be realized we must produce more hexaploid reference genome sequences. One genome is most certainly NOT enough. With the pan-genome in hand we can begin to study the impact of genotypic variation on phenotypic traits of interest. ScanOats is well positioned to be at the forefront of this exciting development.
ScanOats WP1 leader
World tour of oat R&D
Predicting mycotoxins in oat under Scandinavian conditions
Oat cultivation in Scandinavia is sensitive to infection by the fungal disease Fusarium. This fungus produces a mycotoxin called deoxynivalenol (DON) which will then accumulate in the grains. A maximum acceptable concentration of 1,75 mg DON per kilogram of grain has been set in the EU for unprocessed oats intended for human consumption. A research team at SLU in Sweden and NIBIO in Norway has developed an improved method to predict DON in oats under Scandinavian conditions. Read about it here.
Oat bran extract suitable as a natural food emulsifier
Emulsifiers are added to food and beverage products to increase the solubility of, and stabilize, oil and water mixtures. Typically, synthetic emulsifiers have been used but there is a growing demand from consumers for naturally occurring food additives. Such “natural” food emulsifiers include protein from plants (for example pea or sunflower) and animals (for example whey), or polysaccharides such as pectin or guar gum. A research team from Germany have examined the properties of extracts from oat bran, which is a by-product of milling oat and very healthy due to betaglucans, and found it to be very useful as a food emulsifier. Read about it here.
Characterization of cereal β-glucan extracts
Several health benefits of betaglucans have been established by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It has been suggested that it is the physicochemical and structural properties of the betaglucans that result in the nutritional functionality, as they form viscous slurries in the gut. To better understand these properties, a research team from Lund University in Sweden has investigated the properties of betaglucans in water solution and demonstrated a difference between oat and barley betaglucans. Read about it here.
Aventure breakfast seminar
Lund, 18 May 2018
“Klok, smart och hållbar mat”
Aventure is inviting to a breakfast seminar to discuss smart and sustainable food. Invited experts will talk about food for disease prevention, healthy and non-healthy food trends and much more. ScanOats Research Coordinator Dennis Eriksson will be there to show the benefits of oats. For more information, contact Olof Böök at email@example.com.
SLU Department of Plant Breeding seminar
Alnarp, Thursday 24 May 9:30-10:30
The IP landscape for new plant breeding techniques
Niclas Dahlberg and Helle Friis Svenstrup from Awapatent will explain the differences between patent and plant breeder´s rights in a plant breeding context as well as describe the patent landscape for new plant breeding techniques including the CRISPR technology. Venue: SLU Alnarp, Department of Plant Breeding seminar room (Horticum, Sundsvägen 10) For more information, contact Dennis Eriksson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stockholm, 25 August 2018
Save the date! For the fourth year, Matologi is back as an event organised by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). With representatives from the entire food chain, public officials, companies and others, this year´s event will focus on informed choices about our food and how to use global resources sustainably. ScanOats will be there of course! For more information, contact Dennis Eriksson at email@example.com.
Keep an eye on the ScanOats website for upcoming job offers, student projects and other opportunities.
Thank you for reading the ScanOats 6th Newsletter! If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact the ScanOats Research Coordinator Dennis Eriksson at firstname.lastname@example.org.