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Gameover for Aflatoxin Project reaches final of World Changing Idea Awards

On World Food Day 2017, Justin Siegel, Ph.D., Faculty Director of the Innovation Institute for Food and Health (IIFH), helped launch a global initiative to eradicate aflatoxin – a naturally occurring poison in food known to cause liver cancer. So far, attempts to wipe out aflatoxin haven’t been successful, so with a group of collaborators including Mars, Incorporated, Thermo Fisher Scientific, the University of Washington and the Siegel Lab at UC Davis decided to try a new approach using a computer game called Foldit.

The Foldit platform is a revolutionary crowd-sourcing science puzzle game that allows anyone in the world to figure out how amino acids are folded together to create proteins. Developed by the University of Washington in 2008, the platform has enabled a number of serious breakthroughs in scientific research, including a huge leap forward in finding an AIDs vaccine. Since the launch in October 2017, gamers from around the world have generated over 400,000 designs, which are currently being tested by the Siegel Lab.

We’re thrilled to announce that the ‘Gameover for Aflatoxin’ project made it to the final 240 of the 2018 Fast Company World Changing Idea Awards. This is the second annual World Changing Ideas Awards and the competition drew in almost 1,400 submissions across 12 categories spanning the fields of healthcare, energy, technology and more.

‘Gameover for Aflatoxin’ is one of 240 entries that made it to the final round of judging. The other finalists can be found here – the aflatoxin project has been shortlisted in the food section.

Congratulations to all of the collaborators: Mars, Incorporated, Thermo Fisher Scientific, The University of Washington, UC Davis and the Foldit gaming community!

2018 Program Funding – IIFH Helps Secure $1.79 Million

The UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health (IIFH) is committed to cross-sector partnerships that expand and engage a vibrant innovation community. In December 2017, IIFH worked with national partner Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) to develop food waste and drought tolerance programs. More than $1 million in seed funding was awarded to UC Davis researchers and collaborators, and matched by IIFH funding. These investments will be used to improve drying methods and shelf-stability of products across the food system, and ensure that source crops are drought hardy in preparation for an ever changing climate.

The food processing industry has only been incrementally innovated upon since the 1950’s.  Dr. Irwin Donis-Gonzalez hopes to increase efficiencies in food preservation and energy usage to generate optimal health outcomes, and ultimately revolutionize the food processing industry.  “This new method will use innovative moisture-absorbing technology instead of exclusively relying on heated air to dehydrate produce, such as grains, nuts, rice and seeds, for optimum storage and distribution,” said Donis-Gonzalez.

By delving into the genetic basis for drought tolerance, traits for improved root capabilities are being uncovered and made publicly available by Dr. Pamela Ronald. This project is a prime example of how public-private partnerships can advance our understanding of plant genetics to develop crops resistant to drought and other climate extremes,” said Sally Rockey, Executive Director of FFAR.

The food processing industry has only been incrementally innovated upon since the 1950’s. Ineffective preservation methods currently introduce a host of harmful byproducts in the form of aflatoxins, which affect countless consumers each year.  The goal is to increase efficiencies in food preservation and energy usage for optimal health outcomes, and ultimately to revolutionize the food processing industry. Read more: @FoundationFAR