The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

I’ll Drink To That: Genome BC and Genome Canada Launch $3.4 million Grape and Wine Genomics Project

niagara_grape_vinesA team of researchers in British Columbia (UBC, SFU), Ontario (Guelph) and elsewhere (NRC, USDA) will be studying grapes and yeast to bring molecular techniques to bear on winemaking.  Ultimately, they aim to produce a hand-held device to “help growers monitor proteins in the vine or berry at any time” (a “vine-corder”?) that will be adapted from a detector developed by Paul Yager at the University of Washington.

Specific goals of the project are to:

  • Clarify how nitrogen fertilization affects hormone regulation of metabolic pathways important for berry ripening, chemical composition and wine quality
  • Determine the relationship between gene expression patterns and variation in amino acid composition at maturity in ripening berries
  • Develop biomarkers for vineyard monitoring of vine water stress
  • Use a systems biology approach to identify functions for each of the genes involved in the fermentation stress response and the regulation of molecular sugar and amino-acid transporters during wine fermentation
  • Deliver knowledge that leads to understanding the complex scientific, policy, industry and public issues involved in the application of genomics to the wine industry

They have a good head start, having identified 62 genes that are switched on during fermentation, so characterizing those will be a top priority.

Interestingly, the project also includes an ELSI-type component, to “help the Canadian industry and regulatory bodies better understand public concerns regarding the use of genomics technologies in the production of wine and the general food industry more generally.”

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