The Japanese food company Kikkoman Corporation and six other food makers have teamed up with the Japanese National Institute of Technology and Evaluation and four universities to sequence the genome of koji, a fermenting agent used to make soy sauce and soybean paste (miso), by 2003, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported.
The research is aimed at designing a low-energy micro-organism plant, which can produce chemicals without emitting toxic waste by exploiting enzymes produced by koji.
The participants, including Kyowa Hakko Kogyo Co. and Tohoku University, have formed a consortium to work on the joint research project.
The national institute will compile a database of the genome sequence and provide the data to the participating companies, which will then develop the DNA chips necessary to analyse gene functions and conduct research on proteins produced by koji.
Since koji does not produce any toxins, the companies aim to combine it with genes that produce proteins with medicinal properties to formulate new drug compounds.
The sources also claim that if data obtained through the research project is compared with foreign research findings on toxic micro-organisms, it will be possible to develop a new safety standard for micro-organisms.