Cultivated, Cell-Cultured & Biotechnology

Singapore Grants University of Illinois ARCS $14.8M to Launch Precision Fermentation Center

The team led by Professor Yong-Su Jin at the Illinois Advanced Research Center at Singapore (ARCS), an affiliated center of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, has received a five-year, $14.8 million grant from Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF) to establish the Centre for Precision Fermentation and Sustainability (PreFerS).

According to the announcement, the research at the new center will focus on microbial cell engineering or precision fermentation to convert readily available compounds like sugars into molecules, including alternative proteins, healthy fats, and vitamins. PreFerS aims to improve food supply chain resilience, reduce environmental impacts associated with food production, and address micronutrient deficiency, touted as the hidden hunger.

Regarding its broader impact, the project aims to help Singapore achieve its goal of locally producing 30% of its nutritional needs by 2030 and contribute to global food security and sustainability while mitigating climate impacts from conventional agriculture.

Germán Bollero, dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois, highlighted the potential of combining expertise from Illinois and Singapore to address global food security challenges by unlocking the potential of precision fermentation and advancing sustainability.

PreFers's vision of precision fermentation
© Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE)

The potential of precision fermentation

The Illinois leadership team includes professors from various disciplines, such as bioengineering, food science and human nutrition, chemical and biomolecular engineering, and civil and environmental engineering. Notable researchers include Yong-Su Jin, Ting Lu, Michael Miller, and Vijay Singh, among others, who will bring their unique expertise to the table.

PreFerS is supported by the University of Illinois’s Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) and various stakeholders who facilitated the proposal development. The project’s Singapore-based researchers include National University of Singapore affiliates and other local institutions.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has had a research presence in Singapore since 2009. In 2023, its center was restructured as Illinois ARCS to foster collaborative research. In addition to PreFerS, Illinois ARCS hosts the Trustworthy and Secure Cyber-Plexus for Digital Communities program.

PreFerS will be based at NRF’s CREATE on the National University of Singapore campus, where the Illinois ARCS offices are located (featured image).

“By converting sugars and inedible parts of crops into healthier foods, we can take what is already provided in plants and use it to create a more balanced, nutritious, and good-tasting diet.

“We believe this work can play a major role in human health and address inequities in food supplies the world over — without contributing to global climate change,” Yong-Su Jin told Tony Mancuso, iSEE Communications & Public Affairs Director.




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