Biohackers reengineering baker's yeast to make vegan cheese

Jul 15, 2014 by Bob Yirka report

A group calling themselves biohackers, from the San Francisco Bay area has created an Indiegogo project called "Real Vegan Cheese!" Their goal is to create cheese that is every bit as good as that made from mammalian milk, without using the mammal.

Those who adhere to veganism eschew anything made from animal parts, thus in addition to avoiding eating meat, they also stay away from such as cheese. Many people have tried to create a palatable substitute, but most would agree, the results have been less than satisfactory. In this new effort, the researchers are attempting to recreate the process from the beginning by mimicking Mother Nature, without involving cows. They have been engineering milk-protein genetic sequences and inserting them into baker's yeast, which is then used to create cheese in the usual way, i.e. adding sugar, water, oil, etc. and then allowing fermenting to take place.

The effort is still apparently in the beginning stages, and costs a lot of money, hence the Indiegogo campaign—they team is looking for $15,000 in backing (which they've already surpassed) to further develop the process which will involve learning about whether the cheeses that are made will taste good, feel good in the mouth and of course whether it might be possible to mass produce the result so that it can be sold alongside regular cheeses in grocery stores (pending FDA approval, of course.)

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The team wants interested parties to note that the resultant cheese does not contain mammal DNA or genetically engineered material—all that stuff is in the yeast, which does not end up in the cheese. The goal is to create four proteins needed for cheese making, and then to make real vegan cheese. As part of their desire to promote veganism, the team will also be making the details of their research public so that others can make vegan cheese as well. Also, they note that everyone on their team is a volunteer. The goal is to create vegan cheese, not make money.

Initially, any cheese produced by the team will be sold as "not fit for human consumption" because as a food product it cannot be legally sold without approval of the FDA. Team-members are confident that once the process is firmly established there won't be any problems with approval, even with a type they are considering based on human milk-protein genetic sequences—it would be easier to digest and would reduce allergens.

Explore further: Life on cheese: Scientists explore the cheese rind microbiome

More information: www.indiegogo.com/projects/real-vegan-cheese

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User comments : 8

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TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Jul 15, 2014
Biohackers. Ohhh I dont like the sound of that. The biohacker from Dan Browns Inferno made a bug that sterilized 1/3 of us.

Whats next? Are these vegans going to concoct a gut bacteria that replaces what we have, and makes us incapable of digesting animal products? Its possible you know.
tscati
4.2 / 5 (5) Jul 16, 2014
"which is then used to create cheese in the usual way, i.e. adding sugar, water, oil, etc."

errrm, bad news guys, but that's really not how you make cheese! Milk + salt + rennet, and then any odd extras if you want e.g. pepper, herbs etc. But no need for sugar, or water or oil.

What foul conconcoctions are being sold in the US under the name of 'cheese'?
PatrikD
5 / 5 (2) Jul 16, 2014
"which is then used to create cheese in the usual way, i.e. adding sugar, water, oil, etc."


Hah! Yeah, that wasn't a direct quote, but an unfortunate bit of scrambled paraphrasing.

Cow's milk contains a sugar (lactose) and butter fat. The Real vegan Cheese project will be producing just the cheese proteins in baker's yeast, and then adding a (non-lactose) sugar and (vegan) fats to get a similar composition as found in regular milk. From there on, you can use all the traditional cheese making recipes to make any kind of cheese.
alfie_null
5 / 5 (1) Jul 16, 2014
Biohackers. Ohhh I dont like the sound of that. The biohacker from Dan Browns Inferno made a bug that sterilized 1/3 of us.

Whats next? Are these vegans going to concoct a gut bacteria that replaces what we have, and makes us incapable of digesting animal products? Its possible you know.

How about a virus to inject us all with chloroplasts?
Doug_Huffman
2.7 / 5 (3) Jul 16, 2014
LOL Genetic engineers manipulating is now bio-hacking! The neo-Luddites submerge in language kitsch.
crabjack
2 / 5 (1) Jul 16, 2014
A lot of vegans are vegans for the health benefits. Do these "biohackers" really think someone that invested in health is going to eat this?
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Jul 16, 2014
Biohackers. Ohhh I dont like the sound of that. The biohacker from Dan Browns Inferno made a bug that sterilized 1/3 of us.

Whats next? Are these vegans going to concoct a gut bacteria that replaces what we have, and makes us incapable of digesting animal products? Its possible you know.

How about a virus to inject us all with chloroplasts?
Could be the secret of this guys powers
http://youtu.be/4EVpy_2s73Y
jim_farrand-sciencex
5 / 5 (1) Jul 16, 2014
A lot of vegans are vegans for the health benefits. Do these "biohackers" really think someone that invested in health is going to eat this?


Why would they think that? This is clearly aimed at people who are avoiding animal products, they aren't claiming any health benefits.