Working together for better food: Chinese and German researchers want to cooperate more closely in the future. To close the past week, at a symposium at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, Germany, top scientists in the area of food biotechnology from both countries came to initial agreements on implementing a joint research agenda. Their goal: Developing and improving functional food using basic principles of biochemistry and modern biotechnological methods - in order to introduce healthy characteristics, counteract malnutrition, or optimize texture and taste, for example.
Sugar that doesn't make you fat but is still sweet and, as icing on the cake, keeps intestinal microbiota healthy: These kinds of food with health-promoting substances can be produced using biotechnological methods.
"With microorganisms and their enzymes, we can transform traditional sugar such that it is not turned into fat by the human metabolism," explained Prof. Dr. Lutz Fischer, biotechnologist at the University of Hohenheim. "In the intestines, this prebiotic sugar offers certain microorganisms selective nutrition, can balance out the intestinal microbiome, and can even be transformed into metabolites that regulate the feeling of hunger."
These kinds of functional food have the potential to reduce nutritional and health problems, e.g. increasing obesity and related metabolic diseases. The possibilities research offers for solving these challenges and how the authenticity and safety of food can be ensured was the topic of discussion for around 50 Chinese and German scientists at the symposium "Functional and healthy food ingredients generated through state-of-the-art biotechnology" from 12-14 September at the University of Hohenheim.
Research Network Aims to Close Knowledge Gaps
At the symposium, participants identified gaps in knowledge both in the foundational principles and mechanisms as well as in the necessary technological implementation processes. Building on that, the top researchers from both countries agreed on the cornerstones of a joint research agenda.
"The bilateral cooperation between our food science program and Jiangnan University in Wuxi, which has been growing continually since 2015, will not only be further intensified but also gain a broader basis due to the network's expansion to include new, renowned partners in China and Germany," reported Dr. Irene Huber, Managing Director of the Hohenheim Research Center for Health Sciences, which supported the symposium's organization.
"These are exciting topics that are to be worked on together over the course of the next few years, e.g. the modification of bioactive substances for the targeted modulation of the intestinal microbiome, the development of techno-functional and biofunctional properties of food substances to reduce the allergenic potential, improve taste, introduce new health-promoting characteristics, or optimize storage properties. We are very pleased at the positive resonance of all participants and will be happy to support the research network's next steps."
The foundation for cooperation has been laid. Next up will be to systematically close the research gaps identified, jointly look into new topics, and implement these in innovative technologies and products.
Second Symposium 2019 in China
The symposium participants have already agreed on bilateral and multilateral collaborative projects in smaller discussion rounds. What is also planned is cooperation involving an exchange of students and scientists at all career stages.
The initial results of these German-Chinese cooperation projects are to be presented in around one year: the follow-up workshop planned for the fall of 2019 is to take place at Jiangnan University in Wuxi, China - and the network's joint research agenda will also be finalized.