The Dutch “Nationaal Regieorgaan Praktijkgericht Onderzoek SIA” has selected two projects for a RAAK-mkb grant in which BaseClear participates. The first project is led by Christiaan Henkel and titled “PoreLab: DNA-analysis with the MinION in practice”. The second project is led by Barbara Gravendeel and is titled “Authentic vanilla from the greenhouse”. Both projects will start in September 2016. The projects have a duration of two years and both have a value of 600.000 euro of which 50% is covered by the grant and 50% is covered by the participants of the projects.

PoreLab: DNA-analysis with the MinION in practice

Portable nanopore sequencers need to developed further, but this upcoming technology has the potential to change the landscape of genomics applications dramatically. It is expected that within a few years anyone can analyse any DNA sample at any location. The MinION from Oxford Nanopore is the first representative of this new sequencing era. This method does not require large amounts of expensive chemicals, and reads the DNA directly. Due to these properties the MinION has a portable size and makes sequencing very cheap compared to current technologies. This offers new opportunities for many companies within the life science industry, and requires that they need to adapt quickly to this new kind of data and analysis.

Within the PoreLab researchers, students and SME’s will have the opportunity to discover the applications and challenges of the MinION in practice. This allows them to be upfront in this revolution, and discover innovative applications. The PoreLab is founded by Generade, a consortium of BaseClear, Hogeschool Leiden, the LUMC, Naturalis Biodiversity Center and the University of Leiden and in collaboration with ZF Screens. Fourteen SME partners participate in the project by submitting practical cases which cannot be solved with current technologies.

Authentic vanilla from the greenhouse

The project “Authentic vanilla from the greenhouse’ aims at the development of products and the practical guidelines for a higher yield from greenhouse cultivated vanilla peels from healthy plants and with authentic smell and taste. The project is divided in four sub studies:

  1. Pollination research is aimed at the development of an instrument for the optimal transfer of the pollen in Vanilla flowers
  2. The study of the microbiome in vanilla plants and peels in the wild from the rainforest in Costa Rica, plantations on Reunion and Dutch greenhouses will provide more knowledge in the correlation between the composition of these microbes and the Vanilla levels in the peals and their local smell and taste. The determination will be done with Next Generation DNA metabarcoding of markers developed for bacteria and fungi.
  3. Next to this the research aims at the fermentation of the vanilla peels. It will be determined which combination of microbes leads to production of an as high as possible level of precursors of vanilla in green peels and an authentic smell and taste. This will be done with a combination of experimental cultivation research and chemical analysis.
  4. At this moment infection of fungi and viruses within greenhouses is eliminated by hand. This treatment is expensive but for biological cultivation the only possibility. The fourth part of this research will focus on the improvement of the substrate for this research. With the help of experimental research it will be determined which mix of microbes in the substrate is necessary for protection against fungal infections.

Within the research project the lectureship Biodiversity and the lectureship Innovative Molecular Diagnostics from the Hogeschool Leiden and the Leidse Instrumentenmakers School will work together with the WUR and ten SME companies with expertise in chemistry, crop protection, genomics, glass cultivation and starting materials.

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