As a postdoctoral student at the University of Copenhagen, Simon Dusséaux, PhD, searched for a way to bioproduce molecules that are usually made by and extracted from plants. As Dusséaux describes it, he and his colleagues were trying to “find more sustainable ways to produce a lot of what we call natural products.”

For these products, it takes many plants to produce just milligrams of a desired chemical. “That’s a waste of irrigation water and land usage,” he says.

Dusséaux’s work became the basis of Copenhagen-based EvodiaBio, which engineers yeast genes to make aroma compounds through fermentation. Given that evodia is a Greek word for “pleasant scent,” it’s not surprising that the company started with monoterpenes, which can be used to give a product flavor and aroma.

Non-alcoholic beer

EvodiaBio started with non-alcoholic beer—a product in serious need of better flavor and one poised for a growing market. “If you look at some of the larger breweries, they expect non-alcoholic beer to be up to 20% of the market by 2026,” says EvodiaBio CEO Camilla Fenneberg. By creating monoterpenes through fermentation of genetically engineered yeast, EvodiaBio created aroma blends for non-alcoholic beers that can improve the taste and make it more flavorful, which has been tested and documented by a professional beer-tasting panel.

For this company, though, beer is only the beginning. As Dusséaux points out, similar technology could be applied to many other industries, including soft drinks, food, household products, drugs, perfume, and many more, especially ones currently based on natural products.

According to scientists from the Nausori Fiji National University, for example, “Globally, 25% of drugs used in modern medicine are derived from rainforest plants.” Instead of harvesting valuable plants, technology like that developed by EvodiaBio could be used to bioproduce components of drugs, which could be a big boost to sustainability in therapies developed from natural products.

“We are able to produce monoterpenes on a scale never seen before,” notes Fenneberg.

That scale could improve products, possibly create new ones, all while benefiting the environment.