Protein Deficiency: Urgency of the Issue, Solutions and Prospects

The deficiency of affordable and at the same time high-quality protein is one of the world's most urgent issues. Protein is the most demanded ingredient in both feed and food industries. One of the most promising ways of solving the problem of feed and food protein deficiency is the production of microbial protein, or bioprotein, from non-food raw materials.

The first experiments on cultivation of microorganisms to use their biomass as ingredients in food products were conducted more than a hundred years ago. Already at that time, German scientists were cultivating beer yeast which was then used as an additive in sausages and soups. During World War II, the USSR and Germany produced yeast which was widely used for human nutrition. In Leningrad during the blockade, about 30% of the weight of bread was made up of feed yeast which helped reduce deaths from starvation during that difficult time for the citizens.

Nowadays, a number of companies working in the field of biotechnology are trying to use various unconventional raw materials (oil and gas hydrocarbons, wood hydrolysates, etc.) to produce protein, vitamins, antibiotics, amino acids and other valuable ingredients for the food and feed industry. Microbial protein production technologies are constantly improving which allows reducing the cost of the final product, as well as carrying out directed synthesis of protein with desired characteristics.

One of the promising directions is the production of haprin, a protein from natural gas. The technology of industrial production of feed protein from natural gas dates back to the 1980s in the USSR at the Svetloyarsk Plant of Protein and Vitamin Concentrates. However, in the mid-1990s, due to the crisis phenomena in the economy of the country, all plants were either closed or re-profiled, and the activity of the industry was suspended.

Currently, there is a revival of the technology. More and more scientific and industrial companies are showing interest in this direction as one of the most promising. A number of domestic and foreign companies are actively trying to implement projects of industrial microbiological synthesis of protein from methane.

GIPROBIOSYNTEZ LLC was the most successful in this area. The rights to the technology and project documentation of Svetloyarsk Plant of Protein and Vitamin Concentrates were transferred to this company, and GIPROBIOSYNTEZ LLC has continued the activity of the branch suspended in the 1990s, which was promising, but unclaimed at that time being difficult for the country.

The real breakthrough was the creation of a strain-producer - Methylococcus capsulatus GBS-15™, which exceeds by its characteristics all known world analogues in terms of unpretentiousness, biomass growth, phage resistance, resistance to temperature and pressure fluctuations, thermotolerance; dominance in relation to other species of methane-oxidizing bacteria. At the same time, this strain was created by selection, without the use of molecular-genetic modification methods which has significantly increased the labour intensity of its creation, but has allowed preserving the absolute safety of microorganisms for both animals and humans.

In addition, heterotrophic microorganisms that most efficiently utilize the products of incomplete oxidation of methane homologues were selected which has a positive effect on increasing the productivity of methane-oxidizing bacteria.

The company has also developed a unique fermenter design and a system of automatic control of the technological process, which makes it possible to obtain specified values of gas solubility in its entire volume and thus ensure high biomass yield with minimum labour and energy consumption. The system of methane and oxygen purification for their recirculation in the biotechnological cycle has been developed. The system of explosion safety completely excludes the presence and occurrence of hazardous factors and at the same time does not worsen the technological process parameters.

\The technological methane-oxidising bacteria biomass production scheme developed by GIPROBIOSYNTEZ LLC includes the following stages:

- obtaining the inoculum of Methylococcus capsulatus GBS-15 by cultivation of bacteria under continuous conditions;

- preparation of nutrient salt solutions;

- cultivation of Methylococcus capsulatus GBS-15 bacteria in a fermenter in chemostat mode;

- separation of the culture liquid;

- inactivation of concentrated suspension;

- drying of inactivated bacterial biomass;

- packing and packaging of dry biomass.

Throughout the entire technological process, each of its stages is monitored, which, together with almost complete automation, eliminates process disruption and product quality reduction and ensures maximum growth rate of the culture biomass.

GIPROBIOSYNTEZ LLC has developed a line of haprin-based products:

- DreamFeed® is a biomass of inactivated cells of non-pathogenic methanotrophic methane-oxidising bacteria based on Methylococcus capsulatus GBS-15 strain. It is a full-fledged substitute for fish meal of premium class in the production of mixed fodders and premixes, with better quality characteristics;

- DreamFood® is a denucleated microbial biomass of inactivated cells of non-pathogenic methanotrophic methane-oxidizing bacteria based on Methylococcus capsulatus GBS-15 strain. The amino acid composition of the product is close to high-quality animal protein;

- Mikorm® is an environmentally safe biofertiliser based on by-products of protein production by methane processing by methanotrophic bacteria;

In addition to the production of ingredients for feed, food and biofertilizers, the technology of protein production from methane opens wide prospects in other areas of the biotechnology industry, including medical and veterinary industries. Due to the increased productivity of methane-oxidizing bacteria combined with a rather simple genetic structure, the possibility of directed production of certain proteins by modifying the basic strain seems promising.

GIPROBIOSYNTEZ LLC has developed a technology for complex processing of Methylococcus capsulatus bacterial biomass to produce nucleic components, denucleated biomass, protein isolates and hydrolysates. The obtained products can be widely used in cosmetology, medicine, veterinary medicine and food industry.