MetaFluidics foresees the following specific impacts for the proposed research and innovation activities.
1. Enabling enhanced understanding of communities of living organisms
MetaFluidics proposes to complement sequence analysis with functional metagenomics, which will bring an unprecedented, enhanced understanding of microbial diversity, in particular with a specific approach towards metaviromes and the understanding of virus dynamics.
Furthermore, the new bioinformatic tools developed will facilitate deeper understanding of microbial communities at the functional level. By developing user-friendly solutions, MetaFluidics will empower end-users in agricultural, industrial and medical laboratories to search for novel functionalities, thus democratizing bioinformatic tasks.
2. Empowering agricultural, industrial, medical and other applications
The enhanced understanding gained through the MetaFluidics project will contribute to various new applications and the different technologies developed in the project will consequently empower different fields of research.
a) Environmental applications
The MetaFluidics project will allow partners to isolate robust and highly efficient enzymes, which will be employed in the restoration of land affected by fires. The selection of enzymes fully active in a broad range of environmental conditions (i.e. pH, ionic strength, temperature) will result in the acceleration of the restoration process by reducing the time required for the application(s).
b) Food and agricultural applications
MetaFluidics will target the food and agricultural sectors by screening for enzymes that allow the green synthesis of prebiotics and human milk oligosaccharides, massively used as functional foods. Additionally, the project will target the discovery of resistance traits for plants and address the market of biotech crops.
MetaFluidics expects to screen for the repertoire of enzymes involved in the breakdown of plant cell wall structural complexity towards a more efficient and sustainable cellulose hydrolysis, which is critical for biofuel production.
d) Industrial applications.
The advanced recombinant expression and screening tools of MetaFluidics will allow ultrafast screening of the natural diversity. We will screen metagenomic libraries of diverse origins and provide access to a wide array of enzymes that will be marketed as enzyme panels for biocatalysis in the pharma and fine chemical industries.
e) Medical applications.
The health-related targets addressed in MetaFluidics will have a significant impact on growing and ageing populations who will increasingly need ever affordable and effective drugs. In fact, new drugs with new mechanisms of action have recently been discovered in the metagenomes using in situ enrichment and microfluidic approaches similar to those in MetaFluidics.
A deeper understanding of metaviromes will also lead to new applications for antivirals and antibiotics, which are essential in the medical sector, as the more conventional antibiotic drugs are gradually losing efficiency as resistances appear, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
f) Other applications.
Finally, in MetaFluidics we will discover and express microbial genes involved in resistances in laboratory plants, as a proof of concept, in order to expand their capabilities to adapt to extreme conditions. The development of resistant, yet edible plants to supply food is indeed critical for the success of future long term space missions and the establishment of inhabited bases in other planetary bodies such as Mars or the Moon, in line with the main space agencies, ESA and NASA, who are investing in research to improve the growth of edible plants in space conditions (projects MELISSA from ESA, and VEGGIE from NASA).
3. Reducing time-to market and costs to strengthen the competitiveness of European industry and SMEs.
Microbial communities affect human and animal health, support the growth of plants, are critical components of all terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and can be exploited to produce fuels or chemicals. Consequently, it has become absolutely necessary for Europe to enhance its excellence in metagenomics and to reach European citizens and end-users in the fastest, most effective way. MetaFluidics therefore proposes to significantly increase performances in productivity, yield, quality and functionality with a reduction in time to market and costs within different application sectors (including the agricultural, industrial, health and bulk enzyme sectors). This will bring a huge potential for economic growth both on European and global markets and reinforce European excellence and visibility compared to its global competitors.
4. Contribution to standardization in the field at European and international level
MetaFluidics will contribute to standardization in the field of metagenomics through the following actions:
- Assessment of past and current efforts for standardization in metagenomics.
- Reporting on responsible standardization in metagenomics.