INAB | CERTH has a leading position in the Agri-Food sector, emphasizing on omics applications, molecular biotechnology and ‘breeding by design’ approaches to achieve high quality agri-food and non-food products. Moreover, it actively participates in steering scientific and policy-making groups for sustainable development of value chains locally but also extending to the entire Mediterranean.
The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN, http://unsdsn.org/) has been operating since 2012 under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General. SDSN mobilizes global scientific and technological expertise to promote practical solutions for sustainable development, including the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement.
PRIMA (http://ec.europa.eu/research/environment/index.cfm?pg=prima), the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area will devise new R&I approaches to improve water availability and sustainable agriculture production in a region heavily distressed by climate change, urbanisation and population growth. Since 2014, INAB | CERTH has participated in different committees of PRIMA in order to promote and define the scientific priorities of the Partnership.
Within this overall frame, main focus areas and objectives of INAB | CERTH include:
- to exploit of Greek biodiversity: identification of valuable genes useful in plant breeding, enhancing their yield and the nutrient content
- to identify, characterize and utilize novel enzymes of plant and microbial origin participating in natural product biosynthesis
- to employ metabolic engineering of yeast for reconstituting natural product biosynthesis and achieving high yields in an economic and environmentally friendly manner
- to apply plant breeding for increased yield, quality and production of food products, production of high value products and the development of tolerant plants to biotic and abiotic stresses using genetic and omics technologies
- to assist in the genetic improvement of local autochthonous animal breeds
- to isolate and characterize microorganisms for industrial uses and forced evolution to tailor to specific applications
- to assess the nutrient content of local food products
- to undertake morphogenesis, physiological, phenotypic and quality characterization of crop plants and bioenergy crops
- to deploy microorganisms and microbial communities in the biodegradation and valorization of byproducts of the Agri-Food sector
- to perform genomics and metabolomics studies of marine macroalgae for novel applications in the Food and Health sector
Genetics and Genotyping
- Genomic diversity and population structure of autochthonous Greek sheep breeds assessed with genome-wide DNA arrays
- Molecular markers to assess population dynamics of the Greek Black-Pig
- Use of neutral molecular markers to assess the population of aromatic plants
- DNA Barcoding of Greek PDO products
Next generation sequencing studies
The particular omics studies and related computational approaches currently in progress within INAB|CERTH include:
- Whole genome sequencing of elite Greek tomato and vitis cultivars
- Whole genome sequencing of marine organisms for industrial uses
- Transcriptome sequencing of cucumber varieties
- Transcriptome sequencing of aromatic and pharmaceutical plants
- Transcriptome sequencing of the Olive Tree cv Koroneiki and Grape varieties Vitis cv Xinomavro
- Metagenomic and metatranscriptomic characterization of fermented foods. Analysis of the microbial profile of the Greek PDO cheeses, Table Olives
- Metagenomic characterization of freezed sea-foods
- Metagenomic and metatranscriptomic analysis of agri-wastes
- Metatranscriptomic characterization of marine algae species of industrial interest
Biobanking of microbes
INAB | CERTH characterizes and stores in its biobanking facility microbes of industrial interest. In this context, it collaborates in the collection, characterization and storage of microbial organisms from marine, food, plant samples with the Kapodistrian University of Athens, the Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki under Memoranda of Understanding and joint projects.
In the last five years, INAB | CERTH acquired the necessary equipment to perform biochemical analysis in order to provide internal and external services for research groups and enterprises. The developed methodologies include an extended area of analysis (e.g. oils and fats, plant extracts, milk, table olives, flours, grains etc.) in order to provide a complete biochemical identity of the agri-food products.
Overall, as regards the Agri-Food sector, within the last 4 years, INAB | CERTH established a series of novel methodological innovations pertaining to:
- introduction of improved agronomic traits (e.g. herbicide insect and stress tolerance, including climate change) based on combined “omics” and high-throughput substance screening approaches
- exploitation and/or biotransformation of microorganisms and plants to provide inexpensive production systems for high added value products, including pharmaceuticals.
- improved food traceability and authentication through species DNA barcoding and molecular markering
- improved documentation, evaluation, appreciation and sustainable utilization of biodiversity
- improved assessment and management of food and environmental threats related to foodborne pathogens and imported food and feed and water pollution
- metagenome analysis of microbial communities in aquatic environments of agricultural and fishing interest.