Friday, December 4, 2020

 


Lipids saving the world

The world let out a small sigh of relief earlier this week as the first COVID-19 vaccine was approved for use in the UK. The end of the tunnel is in sight – and lipids are playing a significant role.

To date vaccines have used deactivated virus or viral proteins to elicit the immune response. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is different – it is a strand of messenger RNA (mRNA). Once injected into the arm it enters cells and provides instructions to make a fragment of a protein that exists on the surface of the COVID-19 virus (shown as red protrusions on the iconic COVID-19 image above).  That fragment is exported to the surface of the cell where it is recognized as ‘foreign’ by the immune system and destroyed. Having seen several of these foreign protein fragments the immune system creates antibody-producing cells primed to tag this fragment. When any COVID-19 virus enters the body, it is immediately tagged and destroyed. The person has gained immunity.

But there is an obvious problem with this approach: mRNA belongs inside cells. Any that gets out is recognized by the immune system and destroyed. Without some sort of protection or cloaking device the mRNA vaccine has little chance of delivering its instructions. This is where the lipids enter the story. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is formulated with a carefully chosen mixture of lipids and surfactants. The mRNA is encapsulated in a double layer of lipids – a lipidosome – that is invisible to the body’s natural defense systems. Optimizing the lipid mixture and encapsulation is a significant part of the drug development work.

Lipidsomes are already used to package drugs such as the cholesterol-lowering medicines Repatha and Praluent and the chemotherapy Doxil so they can get to their targets with fewer unwanted side effects. But the providing sufficient high purity lipid to lift the threat of COVID-19 from the world – and identifying and producing lipid mixtures for future drugs and vaccines once this inherently faster approach to vaccine development is established - this may provide an interesting challenge for lipid researchers & suppliers as they continue to help save the world. 


Midweek Mixers so far!

Upcoming Mixers | Past Mixers

Midweek Mixers have taken off and if you have not yet joined one, you should!! These events are designed to be a fun space for you to connect with new and long-time colleagues over technical topics, common interests, your AOCS member benefits and more!

No matter where you are in the world, no matter the time of year, we want you to have a space to connect with fellow AOCS community members with common interests. Whether you want to learn, network, collaborate, engage in business development or just socialize with colleagues to unwind, Midweek Mixers are your destination.

Registration is free. You will receive instructions for how to join the Mixer after you register. You do not have to be a member of AOCS to participate, so feel free to invite your colleagues and friends.



Read on to learn what Midweek Mixers AOCS we have on the horizon and the Mixers we have hosted so far

To keep fully up to date, be sure to check the new AOCS Midweek Mixers page on aocs.org.

December's Upcoming Midweek Mixer


EAT Division leaders, Kaustuv Bhattacharya of DuPont Nutrition & Health and Andrew Gravelle of the University of Guelph will host a social gathering for AOCS members to network, connect and learn to navigate your AOCS member benefits!  

Register for this Mixer, which will occur on December 8 at 8 a.m. CST (UTC–06/Chicago, USA).




The theme for this Mixer will be seasonal recipes — it is after all hosted by the EAT Division. Whatever season it is where you are, what do you like to make/bake/cook for yourself, family, friends and loved ones! Bonus points if you bring a dish that is rich in fats, oils and/or proteins! 
Come prepared to tell us what you hope to get out of EAT Division membership or, if you are a long-time member, what you have found valuable about your EAT Division membership. 

By attending this Mixer, you will be entered to win an iPad!


This Midweek Mixer will occur on December 8 at 8 a.m. CST (UTC–06/Chicago, USA). Registration is free for all, including those who are not AOCS members! Invite friends and colleagues to network with other AOCS and EAT Division members and get to know AOCS more generally.

*Domestic winners only. If an international winner is selected, an equivalent prize will be awarded. Must be present at time of drawing to win.

______________________________________________________________________________


Past Midweek Mixers


Let’s talk about your edible oil sample preparation struggles - a conversation with Lovibond


Hosted: September 23, 2020

Lovibond, this Midweek Mixer’s host, kicked off the event with a round of edible oils trivia. Then, Mixer attendees engaged in a conversation about what can reduce measurement interference such as sample preparation, sample temperature, contaminated or damaged sample cells, instrument maintenance and cleanliness, cell path length relative to color scale and incorrect color scale for verification.   

Mixer highlights include:

  • Rick DellaPorta "winning" the Midweek Mixer trivia game
  • Emphasis on the all-important issue of cleaning cuvettes and the effect of temperature on possible measurement aberrations
  • A discussion over sources for healthy alternative oils

October Monthly Membership Midweek Mixer



Hosted: October 13, 2020

AOCS hosted its first orientation to AOCS for new members in this recent Midweek Mixer. AOCS member hosts Leann Barden and Steve Hill were a hit, helping members connect even in our fully remote times. 

Mixer highlights:

  • An overview of AOCS, including aocs.org, inform|connect as well as a variety of AOCS communications
  • A chance to get to know all who joined the Mixer
  • Yixiang Wang won an AOCS glass beaker tumbler
  • Priscilla Costa won an AOCS flask mug

How peer reviewing can help you professionally!


Hosted: November 2, 2020

The peer-review process is an important step for improving research paper quality; however, less is known about the standardized review process. This Mixer hosted by the Student Common Interest Group provided a platform for attendees to share their reviewing experiences and ask questions about how to get involved, best review practices and more. Other topics that were discussed include how to balance research and reviewing and the benefits of reviewing are professionally and intellectually. This Mixer was both an informative session on how peer reviewing can enhance professional development and an opportunity for attendees to network with peers also interested in journal reviewing.

Mixer highlights include:


November’s Membership Midweek Mixer


Hosted: November 10, 2020

Janet Brown, Director of Membership, AOCS and Katrina Gaffney, AOCS Communication Specialist provided attendees an overview of AOCS resources. Then hosts Rick Theiner and Jill Moser helped attendees get to know each other by facilitating introductions. 

Mixer highlights include:


Mix it Up: A Midweek Mixer for surfactants and detergents professionals!


Hosted: November 17, 2020

AOCS' Surfactants and Detergents (S&D) Division hosted a social gathering for surfactants and detergents professionals to network and connect and learn more about how AOCS can help you grow professionally beyond technical services and annual meetings with opportunities for collaboration, business development and continuing education. Attendees came with your favorite drink whether that was an iced latte, a cocktail or a mocktail and S&D Division leaders, Keith Genco of Arkema, Michael Williams of Evonik and Sanja Natali of Exxon Mobil welcomed new and familiar faces to the event.

Nearly 30 people from around the globe, even as far as Japan, attended and provided details about their area of expertise, affiliations and connected with familiar and new colleagues

  • Fred Holzhauer was this Mixer's grand prize winner!
  • S&D Division Session Chairs encouraged attendees to submit abstracts for both oral and e-poster sessions
  • Chair Keith Genco strongly encouraged this group to continue collaborating with one another as a way to build the next generation of technology
  • Attendees took a fun photo with pets to conclude the get together

We hope to see you at the next Mixer! Stay up to date on the AOCS Midweek Mixers page. 

Monday, November 30, 2020

December's Membership Midweek Mixer will be hosted by the Edible Applications Technology (EAT) Division


EAT Division leaders, Kaustuv Bhattacharya of DuPont Nutrition & Health and Andrew Gravelle of the University of Guelph will host a social gathering for AOCS members to network, connect and learn to navigate your AOCS member benefits! 

The theme for this Mixer will be seasonal recipes — it is after all hosted by the EAT Division. Whatever season it is where you are, what do you like to make/bake/cook for yourself, family, friends and loved ones! Bonus points if you bring a dish that is rich in fats, oils and/or proteins!

To start the exchange here is an olive-oil cake that reminiscent of summer in a long winter. The olive oil gives this cake a luxurious texture.

By attending this Mixer, you will be entered to win an iPad!

Come prepared to tell us what you hope to get out of EAT Division membership or, if you are a long-time member, what you have found valuable about your EAT Division membership

This Midweek Mixer will occur on December 8 at 8 a.m. CST (UTC–06/Chicago, USA). Registration is free for all, including those who are not AOCS members! Invite friends and colleagues to network with other AOCS and EAT Division members and get to know AOCS more generally.


Get to know your hosts!


Kaustuv Bhattacharya
DuPont Nutrition and Health
Vice Chair of the EAT Division
Born in City of Joy, Calcutta, India, Kaustuv Bhattacharya quickly realized that cricket is his religion and marine corals and fish are his passion! Based in Denmark, for the last 15 years, he is with DuPont as Principal Application Specialist, Oils & Fats working with emulsifiers and hydrocolloids in food emulsion systems. Kaustuv has been to about 50 countries for extensive customer interactions and conducting training courses. His current role as the Vice-Chair of the EAT division helps him thrive on acquiring and sharing knowledge and remain motivated. He firmly believes that the 'human mind is like a parachute...it does not work unless open!




Andrew Gravelle
University of Guelph
Newsletter Editor 
for the EAT Division

Andrew Gravelle completed his M.Sc. in biophysics in 2010, after which he began his professional career as a research associate in the Department of Food Science at the University of Guelph. In this role, Andrew led numerous projects broadly focusing on two main topics: characterizing and improving the functionality of edible oleogels structured using the polymer ethylcellulose and investigating the use of particulate fillers as a means of modulating functionality in food protein gels. The overarching theme of this work has been to identify methods of recovering or enhancing food structure via non-traditional routes. Andrew has been a major contributing author to numerous peer-reviewed publications and book chapters in the field of food structure and has presented his work at a variety of international conferences.




Register for this Midweek Mixer free. 


*Domestic winners only. If an international winner is selected, an equivalent prize will be awarded. Must be present at time of drawing to win.

Innovations in Protein Extrusion: a spotlight on Soybean 360 moderator Scott Bloomer, Ph.D.

 Meet Scott Bloomer, Ph.D. 

Soybean 360 is an international symposium organized by the Soybean Innovation Lab in partnership with AOCS. The symposium's vision is to share better practices and innovations with processors in Sub Saharan Africa and elsewhere, for efficient processing of food in the soybean value chain that meet DINES criteria: Delicious, Inexpensive, Nutritious, Environmentally and culturally sustainable, and Safe. Processors for both human and animal foods can benefit from the research and industry innovations, and networking opportunities available in this symposium.  The symposium will occur November 30–December 11 from 8-11 a.m. CST (UTC-06/Chicago, USA). Registration is free for all, including nonmembers.

Leading up to the symposium, AOCS is spotlighting AOCS members participating in the event. This week we are featuring Scott Bloomer, an AOCS member since 1995. Dr. Bloomer has been very involved with AOCS through its journals, writing a patents column for INFORM magazine and more.

Read on to learn more about the session Scott Bloomer is involved with, how he got involved with AOCS, and what most excites him about his work.


The Soybean 360 session Scott Bloomer, Ph.D. will moderate

Innovations in Protein Extrusion will occur on Friday, December 4, 2020. The process of extrusion-aided screw pressing and the different products that can result will be reviewed in this session. Researchers and industry executives will review applications, technical advice for efficiency and effectiveness and frameworks for the development of DINES criteria extruded foods.  View presentations and speaker information.

Meet Scott Bloomer, Ph.D. 

Scott Bloomer started his research career in 1973 in the laboratories of Honeywell, Incorporated doing research in humidity sensors. Since then he has been privileged to do research on smoke detectors, biosensors, enzymatic interesterification of lipids, basic oilseed processing and the application of enzymes to milk compounds. He has written a dozen peer-reviewed papers and is a contributing editor for the AOCS trade magazine, INFORM.  Bloomer managed the fats and oils patent portfolio of ADM for several years, drafting and defending patents. He is currently the Director of Technical Services at the American Oil Chemists’ Society.


1) How does your work intersection with Soybean 360 as a whole, or how does it intersect with the specific session with which you are involved?

The Symposium’s focus intersects with the work of the AOCS Technical Department in that we have a large number of methods and many of them are directly related to proteins and co-products and oil, which is central to our many members. Soy protein has a number of methods and we are the keeper and developer of these methods.

In addition, we have programs for laboratory professionals to test protein samples and compare their results with other laboratories in the world. Through this Laboratory Proficiency Program we find AOCS Approved Chemists, which are the very best of the best. We play a central role in certifying laboratories for NOPA (National Oilseed Producers Association).for legal disputes over soy protein levels.

This session with which I am involved has to do with the extrusion of soy. Soybeans have anti-institutional factors that may not be completely neutralized in the desolventizer-toaster step of soybean processing. In order to increase the soy digestibility and ensure that anti-nutritional factors are neutralized, the extrusion step is really important. This, in fact, is the way textured vegetable proteins are made, soy burgers were originally made this way, and many puffed products are made using this method.

So, among AOCS members, there are many experts in this technology.

2) How did you get involved with AOCS?

When I was doing my graduate research, the first place that my professor identified as the best place for me to submit my first paper was the Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society (JAOCS), with which I was already familiar because I read a large number of articles and I kept tabs on what was coming out each month, because there so many interesting papers about fats and oils.

I eventually became a reviewer and Associate Editor for the journal. I also organized sessions of the annual meeting and attended those meetings as well

After I became a registered patent agent, I decided that the INFORM trade magazine most needed more information about patents of interest to AOCS members.

3) How has AOCS contributed to your work?

One of the sore points of being a research scientist that when you are working on a project, you become the specialist on that project. At your company or institution, there are few colleagues that you can talk about your project, where they can come to on an informed level and help you design experiments or frame the questions. AOCS provides a community of experts to turn to and interact with to help advance one’s research. And the meetings are an essential place where you meet them, correspond with them and, maybe, you get one of their papers to review. AOCS courses are taught by very high-level scientists. In AOCS the collegial atmosphere is very strong. There was always a sense of being welcomed by the veteran scientists, that you are part of the AOCS community and that your research is respected. That is something that you normally do not get in a laboratory work setting, but you do get through AOCS – this sense of belonging, a sense of recognition, the sense of people respecting your research.

4) What excites you most about your work?

The opportunity to work with members, to interact with bright people, to bring the methods of these bright scientists into published reality, to help analytical chemists succeed in the Laboratory Proficiency Program and become certified Approved Chemists.

I also relish the chance that I get to represent the interests of AOCS members and stakeholders before the international standardization organization and Codex Alimentarius because these are the world level organizations. 

5) What do you like to do when you are not at work or participating in meetings?

I have been training martial arts for over 40 years and continue to practice Kung Fu every morning. I also train in Japanese martial arts with nostalgic weapons like swords. I have an old British sports car that usually requires some tinkering with. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Registration discount for the Society of Cosmetic Chemists’ 74th Annual Scientific Meeting & Showcase




The Society of Cosmetic Chemists' 74th Annual Meeting & Showcase will take place online, December 7-11. AOCS members can take advantage of the discounted rate offered to SCC Members when you use the code AOCS20SCC

Five full days of cosmetic science education, two keynotes and eight scientific sessions, a virtual poster and showcase floor. With full meeting registration, you will receive access to all sessions across the five-day meeting including presentations on formulation, sustainability, regulatory, safety and/or claims specific to the following topics: 

  • Beauty Personalization & Technology; 
  • Color & Optical Effects; 
  • Cosmetic Dermatology: 
  • Skin Microbiome  & Epigenetics; 
  • Hair Care Innovation & Market Trends; 
  • Natural/Sustainable in Cosmetics & Personal Care; 
  • Personal Care/Cosmetics Impact & the COVID-19 Pandemic; 
  • Sun Care & Beyond; 
  • Technologies & Trends In Ingredients

The Low-Grade Energy Dilemma: How Vertical Plate Technology is Solving an Age-Old Problem: A spotlight on Soybean 360 speaker Stan Pala

 Learn about Stan Pala's Soybean 360 presentation | Meet Stan Pala 

Soybean 360 is an international symposium organized by the Soybean Innovation Lab in partnership with AOCS. The symposium's vision is to share better practices and innovations with processors in Sub Saharan Africa and elsewhere, for efficient processing of food in the soybean value chain that meet DINES criteria: Delicious, Inexpensive, Nutritious, Environmentally and culturally sustainable, and Safe. Processors for both human and animal foods can benefit from the research and industry innovations, and networking opportunities available in this symposium. The symposium will occur November 30–December 11 from 8-11 a.m. CST (UTC-06/Chicago, USA). Registration is free for all, including nonmembers.

Leading up to the symposium, AOCS is spotlighting AOCS members participating in the event. This week we are featuring Stan Pala, an AOCS member since 2020. 

Read on to learn more about Stan Pala's Soybean 360 presentation, the biggest problem he encountered in his most recent project, and how he got involved with AOCS.

Stan Pala's Soybean 360 presentation

"The Low-Grade Energy Dilemma: How Vertical Plate Technology is Solving an Age-Old Problem" will be part of the session Efficiencies in Processing and Production on Monday, December 7, 2020.

Presentation description: The transformation of low-grade energy available in most soybean and other common oilseeds processing plants (as waste energy or byproduct) offers a unique opportunity for plants to increase processing margins, reduce overall energy consumption and emissions. However, low-grade energy has historically posed challenges when looking to transform and re-use it in the crushing process. It has also been associated with the need for large heat transfer areas and high associated installation costs.

Vertical plate technology addresses these challenges – first by offering twice as much heat transfer area than traditional tube technology that is currently used in many vertical seed conditioners, and second, doing so within the same volume. The pattern, typical for plates, benefits from high turbulent flow inside the plates. This allows decreasing flow rate in the recovery loop to maximize efficiency of the heat recovery.

Meet Stan Pala

For nearly a decade, Stan has played an integral role in championing Solex Thermal’s efforts within the world’s oilseeds market. Initially focused on canola applications in Canada, he moved to Europe in 2016 where he led the company’s expansion into applications such as rapeseed and sunflower. As global director of oilseeds, Stan is now focused on applying indirect plate heat transfer technology to new regions, as well as developing more robust conditioning, cooling and heat-recovery solutions throughout the oilseeds processing steps.

1) What discoveries from your previous research inform the work you plan to discuss at Soybean 360? 

With more than 60 installations involving conditioning rapeseed, soybean and sunflower conditioners around the world, Solex Thermal has a proven solution that allows for the recovery of waste, low-grade energy. This solution is a relatively simple concept that involves identifying and assessing the source of waste energy, and then matching it with the technology for recovery purposes. 

2) What is the significance of the research you plan to discuss at Soybean 360, either for future research routes or for real-world applications? 

Recovering waste, low-grade energy in oilseeds needs to be well-considered and balanced. The sweet spot between energy recovery efficiency and investment costs ensures a reasonable return on investment. The final concept will define the technology used for recovery. 

3) Describe the biggest problem you encountered and solved during your most recent project? 

Reasonable payback time that is needed to budget and approve the project. While the payback time varies between companies, government or environmental subsidies, this technology can often help to improve the rate at which companies can realize the benefits. That said, this is not the case for all countries where companies still lack the proper support needed to move these important carbon-reducing projects forward.

4) How did you get involved with AOCS? 

Solex has a long-term relationship with AOCS, including as an active member within the Canadian division and as a participant in many of the organization’s educational sessions throughout the year. We appreciate how AOCS provides a common platform for organizations like Solex to communicate with potential processors and share innovative industry solutions. 

5) What excites you most about your work?

Each installation means a reduction in the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into atmosphere. Our work helps create a more sustainable future.

Registration for the symposium is free.

Monday, November 23, 2020

School Lunch Programs: Opportunities for Soy Nutrition: A spotlight on Dr. Juan Andrade Laborde

  Learn about Dr. Andrade Laborde's Soybean 360 presentation | Meet Dr. Andrade Laborde 

Soybean 360 is an international symposium organized by the Soybean Innovation Lab in partnership with AOCS. The symposium's vision is to share better practices and innovations with processors in Sub Saharan Africa and elsewhere, for efficient processing of food in the soybean value chain that meet DINES criteria: Delicious, Inexpensive, Nutritious, Environmentally and culturally sustainable, and Safe. Processors for both human and animal foods can benefit from the research and industry innovations, and networking opportunities available in this symposium. The symposium will occur November 30–December 11 from 8-11 a.m. CST (UTC-06/Chicago, USA). Registration is free for all, including nonmembers.

Leading up to the symposium, AOCS is spotlighting AOCS members participating in the event. This week we are featuring Dr. Juan Andrade Laborde, an AOCS member since 2020. 

Read on to learn more about Dr. Andrade Laborde's Soybean 360 presentation, the biggest problem he encountered in his most recent project, and how AOCS has contributed to his career.

Dr. Andrade Laborde's Soybean 360 presentation

"School Lunch Programs: Opportunities for Soy Nutrition" will be part of the session Opportunities to Expand Nutrition at Scale in the School Feeding Market on Tuesday, December 1, 2020.

Presentation description: The benefits of school feeding programs have been well documented and fit well with our global sustainable development goals. School programs reduce absenteeism, short-term hunger, and alleviate the effects of undernutrition on cognitive performance as the midday lunches can offer high energy, quality protein and missing micronutrient for children. Day meals can cover at least 40% of the energy needs of children, however, it often provides less than 30% of the daily caloric requirement. Meal programs can also increase the amount of quality protein per weight. Most of the protein is mostly from staples such as maize and sorghum and not legumes or animal sources. School meals can be targeted to bring a large quota of micronutrients (>50% of EAR) for children, especially of iodine, vitamin A, iron, and vitamin D; all of which are important for growth, development and immunity. Current programs could benefit from additional fortification beyond what staples might already bring. Finally, programs could be better entry points for behavior change to enhance health and nutrition outcomes of teenage girls who normally are not targeted by large intervention programs. Soybeans can bring nutrition to school programs in a cost-effective manner. Soybeans are energy-dense legumes, are unique sources of complete protein, and rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Soybeans can complement the menus of many school lunch programs either as flour, texturized protein versions, or as processed products such as soy milk, tofu, or fried and baked goods. Soybeans can bring nutrition at a cost, and thus, complement the value of other plant- and animal-based items in school menus.

Meet Dr. Andrade Laborde

A brief biography: Juan E. Andrade Laborde is an associate professor of global food and nutrition at the University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville. He holds a B.Sc. in Agricultural Sciences from Zamorano University, Honduras, and a Ph.D. in Human Nutrition from Purdue University. Dr. Andrade's long-term goal is to develop sustainable strategies that can be used to deliver adequate nutrition, especially micronutrients, to residents of low-resource countries and thereby help to promote human health and economic development. His research interests are focused on innovative concepts for food fortification, point-of-use sensing technologies for micronutrients in fortified foods, reformulation of relief food products, and service, experiential learning education programs. Dr. Andrade Laborde is an affiliated faculty in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the Food Systems Institute, the Center for Latin American Studies and the Center for African Studies at UF. He is also a research affiliate at the USAID’s Livestock Innovation Lab (LSIL – hosted at UF) and the PI of the Human Nutrition Team at the USAID’s Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL – hosted at Illinois). Dr. Andrade Laborde is a member of the American Oil Chemists’ Society, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the American Society for Nutrition.

1) What discoveries from your previous research will inform the work you plan to discuss at Soybean 360?

I will talk about improving school nutrition at a scale using soybeans. Some of the work that I have done in the past at the University of Illinois, my previous institution, dealt with micronutrient malnutrition. A couple of years ago, I started working with the Soybean Innovation Lab, one of USAID’s Feed the Future Initiative research for development laboratories. Our nutrition team focuses on how we can improve the utilization of soybeans for human nutrition. This role matches quite well with the line of work on improving the delivery of micronutrients in foods. 

Legumes are extremely nutrient-dense foods. Importantly, a differentiating factor between soybeans and other legumes, such as chickpeas, lentils and fava beans, is that soybeans are more nutritious from the angle of quality protein content. They are also rich in unsaturated oils, which are good for brain function and prebiotic fiber that could help the growth of good bacteria. They also contain a good quota of vitamins, like K and E as well as folic acid, which is important for women of a reproductive age.

So, the work at SIL is a great transition from thinking about specific delivery vehicles and then thinking about wholefoods; in this case, soybeans. It is something I am trying to understand in my work not just through AOCS but also through IFT (the Institute of Food Technologist) and the American Society of Nutrition (ASN). There are other organizations and the overall goal is to bring these whole nutritious foods to scale to improve diets in low- and middle-income countries.

It is good to know that these populations are reaching nutrients, macro and micronutrients, but the challenge is how we can continue to make this nutrition cost-effective. The conversation that I am bringing to the symposium is about how we can make it cost-effective for these niche populations, and we argue soybeans can be part of this solution.

2) What is the significance of the research you plan to discuss at the Symposium, either for future research routes or real-world applications?

With the work, we are trying to do with the Soybean Innovation Lab, our focus is translational, which is relevant to the funds we receive through the U.S. Government. What I mean by translation is that we take those bench applications and just tweak it with a little bit more funding, to add that research that is The work at the Soybean Innovation Lab is translational, which is relevant to the intention of the funds we receive from the U.S. Government. What I mean by translation is that we take those bench applications as evidenced in the literature and just tweak them, with a little bit of more funding, to bring these applications to the populations that can use them and benefit from them, and thus result in  larger impacts.

In the case of human nutrition, the conversation is about diets. Nobody talks about nutrients. People talk about diets, but then you have to understand the sources of nutrition to strategize how to pull them together into a wholesome diet. This is the challenge for school feeding programs in countries, i.e. how to make meal plans that are scalable, inexpensive, delicious and yet nutritious.  

Our goal is for soybeans to be part of institutional feeding as well as for the whole population. In some cases, some countries have accepted soybeans as part of their diet to the point that there is a lot of growers producing soybeans. The key is how to link these growers to processors in order to make the incorporation of this legume scalable.

Soybeans are one of the most processed legumes in the world, compared to chickpeas lentils and any other type of legumes that normally require boiling cooking, and then eat. So, why not soybeans? You can do many things with them.

Other research that we are also doing in my laboratory is understanding, for example, how germination and extrusion can increase the digestibility of starch and protein while reducing inhibitors of nutrient absorption, which could help with their inclusion in school lunches.

Most processing companies in Sub-Saharan Africa might have access to some of the basic operations like milling, heating, crushing, etc., but extrusion seems to be something harder to do. But the argument here is that how we can expand these concepts of making different products that include soybeans as ingredients. Cereal and legume blends could be used in several staple dishes, which might be more advantageous flavor- and cost-wise, and for scalability to have very low-cost foods that probably are easier to prepare and eat.

These elements contribute to designing foodstuffs that can better be accepted by populations should be included in this equation. If people do not like it or are unable to access it, regardless of how nutritious it is, the food will not have any desired effect.


3) Describe the biggest problems you encountered during your most recent project.

In my laboratory, we have many projects ongoing, which means we encounter many problems. One of the things that we started testing is the issue of soybean flour instability. That is something that we find the AOCS community can help us with resources to guide and tell us which direction to go. 

Soybeans are made of about 17-18% oil, which is very useful and can make a very profitable business by selling the oil. The remaining material is highly proteinaceous, about 50% protein, which is great for feeding humans or animals, but it depends on the process.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the great majority of soybean oil crushing companies are still expelling oil mechanically; which renders the protein product of lesser value. This is not the case for companies using solvent to extract oil. So, this may present a significant technological problem that the countries such as the United States do not have to deal with because we have built-in structures to extract oil using solvents and processes down the pipeline that maximizes the use of this proteinaceous leftover.

In the lower-income countries, you start finding that these operations are less common, and normally processors do not have access to them because of their cost. Our goal is to find ways to make these kinds of processing more accessible. So, we started looking at how we can use full-fat soy flour, for example, as a way to blend into different complementary foods.

Complementary foods are given to infants after six months of exclusive breastfeeding. We argue that soybeans are more nutritious before extensive processing. As soon as we split soybeans for oil or other specific applications, you dilute its initial nutrition value.

These considerations then led to the conversation on how we can make it more stable, more or less flavorful, using different blends of other cereals such as maize, or in the case of complementary foods, mixed with orange-fleshed sweet potatoes and fish meal. The goal here is to increase protein content while limiting the changes to the foods people are used to.

Perhaps more importantly, we have to consider how long it will last under the conditions of high temperature and humidity that are prevalent in most of the tropic and subtropics. You are dealing with something that has a significant amount of oxidizable oil, which limits its use as oxidation affects its shelf life. 

So, successful products must have a good flavor and bring ample nutrition to the families that will buy these products. But we have to be sure the end products are not too offensive to the palates or their pockets.

Another concern associated with preservation is food safety and waste management. 

Some companies deal with physical safety concerns, not pathogen, bacterial or viral infections or contamination of their products, but actually removing stones, removing plastic removing metals from the food supply. 

Once the industry becomes more sophisticated in terms of processing, they can create more sophisticated products, which benefits the whole population and is scalable so that it does not hurt family budgets. 

Combined with the expertise professionals based in higher-income countries with processors in Sub-Saharan Africa, we think that we may arrive at practical ideas and simple switches that these companies can make, adopting new technologies, or sourcing technologies from other countries. For example, the great majority of companies in Sub-Saharan Africa bring equipment from India and China.

We hope this symposium will inspire processors to find new methods to increase nutrition and safety, while remaining energy efficient. The symposium is an opportunity for them to understand the newest innovations and more pragmatic ideas for them to start changing behaviors towards producing more delicious, nutritious, inexpensive, culturally acceptable, and safer products. At SIL, we argue that the companies in Africa are ready for that, they are ready for the challenge. They want to be part of the solution but they want to be heard and need our help. And I think this Symposium will help us with that.

4) How did you get involved with AOCS?

As a scientist, I knew of AOCS, however, I am a member of two other societies, the Institute of Food Technologies and also the American Society for Nutrition. In terms of finding enough extracurricular activities and presenting to knowledge networks, all of these groups are great.

AOCS is a great group for my work given its specific focus on oils and to, some degree, protein and protein extraction. Before I left the University of Illinois, after a number of conversations with Patrick Donnelly, I got a tour of AOCS’ headquarters and had the opportunity to talk with some of the folks there. The diversity of the members in the Society from chemistry to applied sciences got me thinking that – maybe there are other opportunities for us to work in these niche areas and bring them together to consider whole soy, including protein, oils, etc.

That made me think that this group is potentially more assertive about bringing these pragmatic solutions because the great majority of the members are from the food industry. Often companies do not have time to do much basic research and are driven to make decisions and make things happen. 

When beginning to plan the Symposium, the most positive response I received was from AOCS. That support is something I value tremendously. It has taken no time at all to feel part of an organization that is accomplishing things with real-world implications.

5) How has AOCS contributed to the advancement of your research?

Once we became members, I told my Ph.D. Students to become members and that has allowed us to access a lot of information in AOCS journals, which is helping us to catch up to scientists in the United States, Europe and other countries. We can ask questions to the larger network and the members are quick to reply. I wish I can meet these colleagues. They have really impacted our work.

Interestingly, this information about soybeans is not new, it has been out there for a while. AOCS’s libraries and journals and their overall content curation have been immensely helpful in pushing our research forward. Nonetheless, this information is not context-specific and here is where our job is to make it relevant for those communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

So, that is very direct way that we have been able to benefit significantly from these partnerships and participating as members.

6) What excites you most about your work?

In my work, I wear many hats, but the reward I get from working with the Soybean Innovation Lab is immense. I can see things that we are developing with partners in Sub-Saharan Africa that can have larger impact. I am just one piece of this puzzle that facilitates changes because we have access to funds to facilitate research.

The families can apply these technologies and use these materials to make complementary foods at home, for example, and that brings nutrition to a household. Of course, we are thousands of miles away from these places, so the whole credit is theirs and unfortunately, we do not get to see these impacts directly.

Now, we are joining the processors that can bring applications to scale. Maybe there are hurdles that seem difficult at first. Nonetheless, with the AOCS’s cadre of experts from different parts of the world, with the support of these partnerships and the support of these networks, we can successfully address these challenges.

7) What do you like to do when you are not in the lab or presenting your work at symposia or meetings?

Actually, when I can, I sleep!  I guess that's the case for most scientists nowadays.

It seems that we are inundated with all these meetings – more people join meetings via Zoom, but we only have one ear in the meeting, the other ear is actually on the phone or doing something else. It just incredible how much multitasking occurs now, and that leads to a lot of stress. Resilience and mental health is something that we have not focused enough on, not as academics or as a society. 

To recharge, we as a family, which includes two kids, play board games as much as we can.

We bring it to a table in a park to play, just to see people! We binge watch shows that are quite calming such as on aspects of culture or food, or that makes us laugh as it seems we need more of it.  

I also love sci-fi shows and books, because more often than not they predict the future.

They also deal with interesting questions like how we can deal with limited resources or consider how the next pandemic could start and how we should better prepare ourselves.

Before the pandemic, we loved to entertain, bringing colleagues, friends and students together. We love to cookout. Food is a tremendous presence in our lives. I could talk about food for forever, it is so tied to memories of our childhood, of our family and friends. 

Registration for the symposium is free.