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51: Food innovation at the heart of future health concerns

The Enzyme and Cellular Engineering Laboratory (GEC), a CNRS-UTC joint unit, combines fundamental and applied research around two main themes. The first, called the "green" theme, concerns everything related to plant metabolism and bioresources with concrete applications, such as the replacement of mineral oils by lipids produced by plants, or the use in nutrition and health of phytosanitary-compounds known for their antioxidant and anti-tumoral properties, such as betanine. The second, the "red" theme, aims to explore the issues of bio-mimetism and biomolecular diversity, in particular by designing biomolecule banks or creating polymers with molecular fingerprints whose recognition performance is comparable to that of antibodies. Innovative research with fields of application ranging from health, to cosmetics and agro-food.

51: Food innovation at the heart of future health concerns

UTC as a major partner

Professor at Cranfield University (Great Britain), Fady Mohareb is in charge of the bioinformatics team in the laboratory dedicated to the food industry. Between 2010 and 2018, he was also Manager of the European Partnership Programme, a double degree curriculum set up by Cranfield University. He details the nature of the relationship between the two institutions.

When did the academic and/or research relationship between Cranfield University and UTC begin?

The relationship between our two institutions goes back more than a decade, when the two universities signed a protocol for the exchange of students following a dual curriculum within the framework of the "European Partnership Programme" (EPP) set up by Cranfield University. Since then, UTC has been considered a major and strategic partner for Cranfield University.

In what areas have they developed?

They concern the food industry, biotechnology and bio-computing, automotive, aerospace and industrial production.

With regard to your own areas of expertise, what research is being or has been carried out in cooperation with UTC? With which laboratories?

As a specialist in applied bioinformatics, more particularly in machine learning, I have collaborated mainly with Professor Claire Rossi from UTC-GEC (Enzyme and Cellular Engineering) Laboratory (a UTC/CNRS mixed unit), with Benjamin Quost from UTC-Heudiasyc (Heuristics and Diagnostics of Complex Systems) Laboratory and with Claude-Olivier Sarde from UTC-TIMR (Integrated Transformations of Renewable Matter) Laboratory of the UTC in the fields of agro-food and bio-computing.

Can you specify and give concrete examples of collaboration?

It all started with the "European Partnership Agreement (EPP)" established by Cranfield University. A double degree curriculum that allowed high-potential students from UTC to join a MSc programme at our university after their third year. With one advantage: exemption from registration fees. Today, we have decided to go one step further with the EPP. This second phase concerns PhD students from both institutions who could, for their research, work either at Cranfield University or at UTC.

Another, more recent example of this collaboration?

A seminar entitled "Seed Meeting" held at the French Embassy in London in October 2018. Funded by the Department of Higher Education, Research and Innovation of the French Embassy in London, it was co-hosted by Claire Rossi and myself. The aim of this seminar? It notably served to identify potential synergies between our two teams in terms of research and innovation and to enhance research collaboration between our two universities. This meeting was  very fruitful since we have already identified a possible research partnership in the field of bioactive molecules from plants. Our twoteams are currently trying to identify the most suitable calls for projects, both on a bilateral and international level, in order to officially conclude an agreement in the field of research between our two institutions.

Will there be closer links between researchers in the future?

Absolutely, since over the years to come, researchers will be invited to spend half their time in Compiègne and the other half in Cranfield.


Portrait

Megan Eoche-Duval graduated from UTC in 2017, majoring in Bio-Engineering, and specializing in Innovation, Food and Agroresources (IAA). She also holds a Master's degree in Nutrition, from University Paris 6 (Pierre and Marie Curie). She has worked with the Danone Group since 2018.

What motivated the choice of UTC? "During my MPC (math, physics & chemistry) preparation, I realized that I missed biology a lot. But at UTC, not having done biology before didn't seem to be a problem, even though I had to work hard to catch up in the subject," she explains.

Another, older motivation? "When my brother was in his final high school class, we went to the UTC Open Day”. What did he like? "The fact that you can choose a personalised à la carte training course, have teachers who listen, work on projects - a good preparation for integration into a company - and finally that it offers activities such as drama or music classes, and is on a human scale," she emphasizes. Megan Eoche-Duval was recruited by Danone at the end of her master's internship as a member of the "Innovation Aquadrinks" team.