German biotech firm Brain bags European patent for taste technology

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock
After bagging a European patent for its taste cell technology to develop natural sweeteners, German biotech company Brain is turning its attention to bitterness and salt reduction.

The European Patent Office (EPO) granted the patent for the Zwingenberg-headquartered firm's novel taste cell technologies used to develop novel, natural ingredients for food and beverages.

Granted last week, the patent (EP 2841565 B1, 'Human taste cells capable of continuous proliferation') means Brain holds the right to use the screening technologies for taste modulators.

It already received a US patent for the same technology back in August 2016 but said the European registration was “an important prerequisite” ​to expanding its business.

'Long-living' tongue cells

“Brain scientists have invented, established and patented a method to obtain long-living cell lines derived from fungiform taste papillae of the human tongue. This research took about three years," ​head of public relations for the firm Thomas Deichmann told FoodNavigator.

“In general, human taste cells are short-lived cells which hardly proliferate in vitro. Before we established in-house human taste cell (HTC) technologies, it was not possible to use human tongue-derived cells as a model, due to the lack of homogenous, proliferating cell lines with defined properties, which is a prerequisite to establish comprehensive research and screening programs.

The technology allows Brain to sample natural ingredients in a much faster and "qualitatively reliable"​ way than using test subjects in a sensory panel, the company said.

“In addition, the method results in a substantially higher throughput, and the selection step can be taken without submitting the natural substances to tolerability testing beforehand,” ​it added.

Dolce Consortium

In 2016, Brain set up the Dolce consortium​ with starch-based ingredient supplier Roquette and natural product specialist AnalytiCon Discovery to develop natural sweeteners and sweetness enhancers using the technology.

Deichmann would not name names but said other Dolce members included “the largest consumer products companies in the world”, ​with members paying upfront, milestone, success and license payments.

The Dolce consortium expects Europe and the US to be its biggest markets and, with this in mind, recently opened a US subsidiary Brain US, near Washington DC in order to strengthen its foothold in North America.

'Anti-Bitter and Salt-E'

In addition to this regional expansion, it is also turning its attention to other flavours.

“Similar to our business activities for natural sweeteners and sweet taste enhancers in Dolce we are currently preparing partnerships for our Salt-E program for salt taste enhancers and for our Anti-bitter program.

“Here for example we focus on sodium reduction by eliminating the off-taste of potassium chloride, which is often used to replace sodium chloride. All these programs partly rely on our taste cell technology, which is continuously [being] improved and expanded."

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