Communication and Dissemination

WP7 is focused on the communication and dissemination of the CHIC project. Communication means any activity aimed at defining the messages, the audiences and the means to use in order to have the maximum possible impact for the project. Dissemination consists of sharing research results with potential users, in order to contribute to the advancement of science. To maximize the impact and success of the project it is necessary that both communication and dissemination are fully aligned. This implies good mechanisms for identifying results, adequate management of the protection of the IP, defining communication strategies for each result, and once it has been communicated, there is a need to measure impact in order to have a continuous improvement.   

In CHIC we have a specific communication plan per type of audience. These are: researchers, industry and farmers, policy makers, consumers. A great effort is being made to reach all these groups in terms of the type of language and the tools to be used. Consumers are a very sensitive group in CHIC. The main objective is to provide them with the right arguments so they can make informed decisions about whether or not a food produced using gene editing techniques is healthy and sustainable

To this end, partners are being very active participating in different types of events where interesting discussions on new plant breeding techniques are being held.

During the  20th and 21st of July 2019, the CRISPRcon conference was organized by  Wageningen University and Research and the Keystone Policy Centre in Wageningen, The Netherlands. The objective of the conference was to foster discussions about the future of CRISPR and related gene editing technologies across a variety of applications in agriculture, health, conservation and more. Researchers, industrial representatives, consumer organizations, organic farmers, traditional farmers, patients’ organizations, policy makers, EC representatives, environmental associations and students, took part in the conference. 

It was interesting to see that many of the topics that were discussed at CRISPRcon are addressed by CHIC such as the importance of hearing diverse voices, regulation of process or product, traits that are beneficial for consumers, large scale (staple crop farming) versus small scale local farming, access to CRISPR technology (IP and patents),  safety assessment, regulation and who decides. 

The biennial international Fascination of Plants Day (FoPD) is an event encouraging people from around the world become fascinated and enthusiastic about plants. Coordinated by the European Plant Science Organization (EPSO), it takes place globally on May 18, every uneven year since. In 2019, for it’s fifth edition, FoPD was a huge success. If you want to know more, please press on this link

Some partners have presented the CHIC project in the European Researchers Night. It was a great success because very nice experiments were made with children and their families.

Figure 1: CHIC Project in European Researchers Night in Serbia

Figure 2 and 3: CHIC project at European Researchers Night in Italy

During October 2018 CHIC was invited to participate in the Euronews Science Program “Futuris”. After two intensive days shooting and making interviews in Wageningen University, Key Gene and Sensus, the documentary and a special bonus track made to the project coordinator were on air on October 14t. Both videos have received more than 10.000 visits in our CHIC youtube channel.

Art& Science activities 

Art& and Science activities started in 2019 and it is expected that very nice pieces of artwill be developed by our outstanding artists during 2020.

Artists Anna Dumitriu and Alex May are working with CHIC Consortium members to develop a new sculptural and bio-digital installation entitled “Biotechnology from the Blue Flower” and will be spending time on site with consortium members over the life of the project. In 2019 the artists attended the consortium meeting in Madrid and have been working with chicory roots in their studio, and in February 2020 they will be visiting Wageningen Plant Research, Sensus and KeyGene as part of their research with more visits to come. If you want to know more press on the link 

Jill Scott and Marile Hahneare developing “AFTERTASTE”. It is an art and science project that aims to stimulate reflection for different public audiences. The project is based on the health of the human olfaction and gustatory systems and the feedback between these systems and the content is based on the primary and secondary compounds found in the chicory root. If you want to know more about the work being developed by Jill and Marile please go to the following article.

Training Activities

With the University Carlos III of Madrid, in concrete with the “Interactive Systems Group”,  CHICK is developing an educational and interactive game for CHIC project. During 2020 “MyCHIC Farm” is expected to be released. The plater (“the farmer”) have to consider how to improve his farm, having to decide to continue with the classic chicory crop production or to use biotechnology to improve the yield and to bring out new products that are more beneficial to society and for the economic performance of his farm. He will face numerous problems such as pests, droughts, regulations, price changes in the market… New technologies (virtual and augmented reality) will be used and will be presented at different schools and events related to education and science for and with society.

Training programmes will be launched in 2020 for young researchers (university, phd and post doc) as well as farmers and workers in the sector who may be interested in the results of the project.

Share this:

Implementation of NPBT in chicory for bioactive terpenes

Root chicory is grown for inulin, but it also produces a number of compounds in its latex. These compounds belong to the class of terpenes and the most abundant of these are sesquiterpene lactones (STLs), which have a potential as antimicrobial and anticancer bioactives. However these compounds may interfere with the extraction of inulin. Therefore in CHIC we have the following twofold objectives:

  1. To understand how these terpenes accumulate in the latex, how laticifers (the specialized cells that accumulate latex) develop and characterize the bioactivity of compounds that are present in the latex. With this knowledge at hand, chicory could be developed as a biofactory for the production of valuable sesquiterpene lactones. To reduce the impact of latex in the extraction of inulin, we aim to decrease the number of laticifer cells in the tap root.
  2. Our data shows that the early steps of STLs biosynthesis take place outside of the laticifer cells and STLs accumulate inside of laticifers by transportation mediated process. Based on this information, candidate genes for the development of laticifers and biosynthesis of STLs have been selected. Preliminary bioactivity assays indicate the presence of anti-biofilm activities.

Furthermore, candidate genes involved in the accumulation of costunolide and parthenolide have been identified to generate modified plants with higher amount of parthenolide, an anticancer compound.


Share this:

Technical- and risk- and regulatory assessment of NPBTs

In CHIC project, NPBTs are applied to improve industrial chicory for better inulin and production of health-related terpenes. As part of CHIC, different NPBT approaches to edit chicory genomes were employed. We will technically evaluate these approaches and assess, whether chicory plants generated by the different techniques pose differences on technical level such as off-target rate, efficiency or fall under different regulations. Currently, CHIC partners generate chicory plants with the different approaches. To ensure comparability between the different approaches, all partners work on same target genes.

These approaches are compared in terms of efficiency, time-frame needed and costs. Furthermore, different approaches may show differences in potential off-target activity. We identified potential off-target sites in the genome of the chicory, which could be edited by the used NPBTs. In a first approach, we tested whether identified potential off-targets sites were cleaved in vitro. First results let assume a high specificity of the tested NPBT, as none of the identified off-target sequence was cleaved so far.

Furthermore, it has been screened the current literature systematically together with the ELSA-Gea project (www.dialog-gea.de) and identified thousands of studies wherein NPBTs were successfully applied in a diverse set of more than 40 plant species all over the world. Many studies let assume, that first products are soon touching the commercial market. In many countries, the regulation lags behind this success of NPBTs. Currently, regulation of NPBT differs from country to country. In Member states of the European Union, due to a decision by the European Court of Justice in 2018, plants mutagenized using NPBTs are seen as genetically modified organisms (GMOs). NPBTs are not exempted from the strict European GMO regulation. However, there is an open-ended debate; whether this strict regulation is justified also for NPBTs. Outside Europe other regulations are represented: for several years now, USA, Canada, Argentina, Israel and Chile have a liberal position towards the use of NPBTs. Since CHIC project began in 2018, five more countries clarified the legal position of NPBTs. Among these countries are Brazil, Paraguay, Colombia, Japan and Australia. A number of other countries, e.g. Russia and China, are expected to join soon. Different to Europe, in these countries usually assesses NPBTs derived plants in a case-by-case dependent manner. Mostly they fall out of the scope of regulation, when certain prerequisites were met, e.g. when no foreign DNA was integrated into the edited genome. We are constantly monitoring changes in legislations and follow closely the debate in European Union and its neighbours.


Share this:

Implementation of New Plant Breeding Techniques for dietary inulin

Inulin is a dietary fiber with health-promoting characteristics mainly targeted on gut health. Inulin is extracted from root chicory and used in many food products. The yield and the length of the inulin molecule determines the value and health-beneficial character of this compound. Using NPBT we want to increase both the yield and the length of inulin. The natural production of terpenes in chicory makes the inulin extraction method less efficient and more costly. The other goal of WP2 is to reduce the production of natural chicory terpenes.  

The work done during the first two years of the project CHIC shows that we could generate mutant chicory plants in which the genes encoding  the inulin break-down enzymes are blocked using genome editing techniques thanks to the small alteration the CRISPR tools made in the plant DNA. All mutated plants have been analyzed in great detail on DNA level using various methods.

Figure 1. First NPBT mutated chicory plants with knock-out of inulin degradation genes in greenhouse
Figure 2. First NPBT mutated chicory plants with knock-out of inulin degradation genes in greenhouse
Share this:

Socio-economic and environmental impacts on the whole value chain

In CHIC we evaluate socio-economic and environmental impacts on the whole value chain of the new developed chicory crops. Therefore a socio-economic impact assessment and an environmental assessment of NPBTs and the whole value chain will be performed. In addition to these quantitative assessments, a qualitative research on societal issues hindering or facilitating chicory innovation will be applied. 

The first steps included collecting and screening information on the CHIC value chain and the current chicory cultivation and inulin, therefore a literature and database research was made. Information on current chicory cultivation, inulin production, terpenes and NPBTs was screened and summarized. Followed by the identification of socio-economic and environmental indicators.  

Statistics on international trade of root chicory and inulin from the UN COMTRADE and statistics on land-use, chicory production and yield from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have been analyzed. Figure 1 below shows the gross production value of chicory roots (including intermediate uses like seeds and feed) in 1,000 international Dollars. The five biggest producers of chicory roots, according to the available data, are Belgium, France, Netherlands, Poland, and South Africa. However, the main producer of chicory roots by far is Belgium.  

To identify environmental and socio-economic impacts of the new CHIC process and the resulting products (Figure 2) an environmental assessment using the methodology of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and a socio-economic impact assessment using an input-output modelling will be applied. The whole value chain (e.g. breeding, cultivation, processing) will be included in the assessment.  

The LCA will give information on e.g. greenhouse gas emissions, primary energy demand, water consumption, land use of the new value chain developed in CHIC. Within the socio-economic assessment, the impact of different NPBTs on economic and social indicators will be quantified such as GDP, production volume, growth, competitiveness, and employment as well as the distribution of wealth and income between different sectors and regions within the EU and the global economy. The results will be used to lead the development within the project in a sustainable direction. 


Figure 1 Gross production value of chicory roots (Datasource: FAOSTAT)

Figure 2 Value chain of the CHIC process

Share this:

CHIC project: Breeding Chicory Roots for Health Products.

Don’t miss our new leaflet where we explain the main objective of CHIC project: To breed chicory roots to bring health products to the society!

Download the new leaflet.

Share this:

CHIC project at the science programme FUTURIS

On Monday, 14th October 2019, the science programme FUTURIS, from the Euronews channel, made a documentary about the CHIC project.

They made several interviews to some of our partners and they also explained the benefits of implementing new plant breeding techniques, in chicory breeding, to convert it into a multipurpose crop and to obtain high value products for consumers’ health benefits.  

On the other hand, our project coordinator, Dirk Bosch had a special interview in the Euronews Bonus Section. He provided detailed information about why we selected chicory as a promising and a strong crop to be converted into a multipurpose one.  

The documentary has been translated into 12 languages and we want to thank the FUTURIS team for guiding us during the filming process and for bringing such a nice result.

Enjoy the documentary!

Source:

https://www.euronews.com/2019/10/14/chicory-roots-will-boost-your-gut-health-say-scientists

https://www.euronews.com/2019/10/14/the-deep-rooted-truth-about-chicory-root

Share this:

CHIC at the European Researchers’ Night in Indjija (Serbia)

IBISS, partner in CHIC Project worked on organizing the presentation regarding the results of our CHIC Project, though team member Jovana Petrovic directly participated in this manifestation.

On September 27th 2019, Jovana Petrovic from University of Belgrade, Institute for Biological Research “Siniša Stanković, National Institute of Republic of Serbia presented knowledge gained so far on health-beneficial effects of Cichorium intybus and its possibilities to be used on every day basis.

People seemed very keen to get to know with facts how this plant that grows on meadows nearby, could exert useful effects as a tonic, coffee substitute and prebiotic.

Since this manifestation is dedicated to popularization of science making it interesting to children of school age, retired people and overall families with children, this Researchers’ Night was a unique opportunity for people to get familiar with new breakthroughs in research that they could directly benefit on.

The presentation of the Project took place at Indjija, the intersection city between Belgrade and Novi Sad.

Share this:

Development of four conceptually different New Plant Breeding Techniques

The objective of CHIC’s in this area is to develop four different methods for genome editing of chicory. These methods differ in their degree of ‘DNA invasiveness’: the extent to which CRISPR genes are introduced into the plant’s DNA. In the end all four methods lead to identical genetic outcomes.

CHIC methods  related to the presence of CRISPR DNA in the chicory plant’s DNA

These two methods are based on stable integration of CRISPR genes in the chicory genome, leading to so called transgenic  chicory plants. After the CRISPR genes have done their work, the genes are removed from the genome. In the 1st method the crossing and selection will be used to select offspring plants without the CRISPR genes and with the desired mutation. In method 2, specialized enzymes will be used to remove the CRISPR genes from the plant’s DNA, so making crosses is not needed.

During the 1st two years of the project, thanks to applying the 1st method we have obtained transgenic chicory plants. These plants are now being analyzed for functional edits in the chosen target genes: genes involved in the production of the enzyme germacrene A synthase. This enzyme is essential for the production of terpenes.

Methods related to the non-presence of CRISPR genes in the plant’s DNA

These two methods are based on administering CRISPR tools to chicory cells without incorporating CRISPR genes in the plant’s DNA.

In method 3 plasmid-DNA that harbours CRISPR genes, is introduced into individual chicory cells. Plasmid DNA is best known from bacteria: circular DNA molecules that encode important traits. After introduction into a chicory cell, the CRISPR DNA is expressed and the CRISPR tools are being assembled in the cell. The plasmid DNA is eventually degraded. 

In method 4 the CRISPR tools, protein and guiding RNA, are assembled outside the plant cell and then introduced into plant cells. This way there is no CRISPR DNA entering the plant cells.

For all methods we need to treat individual chicory cells (protoplast). The challenge then is to grow complete plants from these single cells. We have shown that this is indeed possible. We have also optimized techniques to introduce plasmid DNA and the CRISPR tools into chicory cells.

This has already resulted in plant cells in which the genes involved in the production of the enzyme germacrene A synthase are permanently disabled, thanks to the small alteration the CRISPR tools made in the plant DNA.

Optimizing the CRISPR tools

One of the CRISPR tools is a guide RNA (gRNA) molecule. The other is an enzyme called Cas9. The gRNA guides the Cas9 enzyme to the place in the plants’ DNA where a mutation is desired. We have designed gRNAs and have shown that they indeed guide the enzyme, enabling it to temporarily break the DNA at the correct place.

We have obtained plants with desired mutations in both chromosome sets (chicory is diploid) and in many or even all the gene copies chicory possesses. We are now testing the plants for the terpene content that may have some type of bioactivity.

Genome insight

The existing DNA screening techniques are not effective to screen plant material for small changes in the DNA in a high throughput manner. Therefore we are developing a new technique, based on techniques one of the partners developed for kiwi.

During 2019, the partners decided to jointly invest into a better assembled genome sequence of chicory, as the available genomic databases were of insufficient quality for our research.

Share this:

Great success of CHIC project in the exhibition held by Fondazione Edmund Mach in the 2019 European Researchers’ Night Edition

On Friday 27th of September, 2019 Fondazione Edmund Mach (partner in H2020 CHIC project) made an exhibition of CHIC project.

University and school students, retired people and families could see in vitro cultures and protoplasts through the microscope and do some tasting of our nice CHIC products.

 

Share this: