22 December 2019 - 25 Kislev 5780 - כ"ה כסלו ה' אלפים תש"פ
Technion students develop artificial honey E-mail

A team of Israeli students from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology won a gold medal in a prestigious, international science competition in Boston, US, for their development of bee-free honey.

The Technion team has been working on the honey for the past year, according to the University, and won a gold medal for its efforts at the iGem competition (International Genetically Engineered Machine).

Established in 2003 by MIT, the contest gives students the opportunity to experiment with aspects of scientific and applied research in synthetic biology.

One of the requirements of the competition is to develop a scientific-technological idea alongside a real business enterprise. The team’s synthetic honey is made with the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, which “learns” to mimic the honey following reprogramming in the lab, the Technion said.

Also known as hay bacillus or grass bacillus, Bacillus subtilis is found in soil and vegetation and is also present in the gastrointestinal tracts of humans.

“The bacteria can independently control the production of enzymes, eventually achieving a product with the same sugar profile as real honeyand the same health benefits,” the team’s entry on the competition’s website explains.

The development, Technion says, is important within the context of the sharp decline in bee populations in many parts of the world. It provides a starting point for potential future endeavours of manufacturers, allowing them to determine practical factors including how it would taste. The product would be considered vegan, as no animals will have been used in the process of making the synthetic honey. If the artificial honey becomes available commercially, it will have tapped into a vegan food market worth over US$20 billion worldwide by 2026.

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