PARIS — On June 6, Ÿnsect announced the creation of a genotyping chip for insect breeding, furthering the advancement of more sustainable food and pet food industries. The chip, called Axiom® YNS_Mol1, is the world’s first chip specifically for insect breeding and represents a significant step of selection of larvae lines to produce more insect-based proteins, according to Ÿnsect.
Axiom® YNS_Mol1 will be available to the scientific community and is dedicated to breeding the Tenebrio Molitor mealworm, allowing for selection based on the genomic diversity of the insect species.
“Ÿnsect's ambition is to contribute to the development of a new economic, social and sustainable model, which proposes new ways of consuming and producing, in order to meet the major environmental and climatic challenges of our era,” said Antoine Hubert, chief executive officer of Ÿnsect. “For 12 years we have been innovating, with the goal of advancing the food industry and democratizing the insect. Our genotyping chip for the Tenebrio Molitor beetle is a world-first for our industry and will contribute to the sustainable structuring of the entomoculture sector.”
According to Ÿnsect, genomic selection is one of the fastest and most effective tools to help improve the sustainability of various food systems. Insect producers typically focus on breeding bigger insect larvae to produce more highly nutritious ingredients. However, this practice can become overly restrictive and could lead to detrimental consequences caused by consistent inbreeding, reducing genetic diversity in insects.
With this top of mind, Ÿnsect developed the chip in partnership with Thermo Fisher Scientic to analyze the genetic characteristics of more than 4,000 individual insects. The chip targets specific genetic characteristics, including four biological traits linked to growth performance, reproduction, food conversion and disease resistance, providing large-scale insect farmers, like Ÿnsect, with the ability to select the best lines while ensuring genetic diversity.
“The chip is made up of 679,205 markers, called Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs), distributed throughout the genome and covering more than 99% of the gene regions,” said Thomas Lefebvre, biotech R&D innovations director, Ÿnsect. “These SNPs, representing modifications of a DNA base at a precise position between individuals of the same species, were selected to represent the entire genetic diversity of the insect population at our farms.”
The novel chip also allows for the identification of insect traits that are most resilient to climate change, requiring less water and fewer inputs to even further reduce the environmental footprint.
The Axiom® YNS_Mol1 chip is just part of Ÿnsect’s ŸnFABRE project, which launched one year ago in partnership with Thermo Fisher, the CEA and Aprex Solutions and supported by BPI France.
“Thermo Fisher’s Axiom® technology allowed us to genotype the Tenebrio Molitor as we traditionally do for livestock and field crops,” said Pierre Garrabos, senior key account manager of AgriBusiness West of France at Thermo Fisher. “This is the first time that a chip of this type has been designed for an insect, and it truly marks the insect’s entry into conventional breeding. The design of the chip, which consists of defining and optimizing its content in terms of markers, is the key step in the design. It requires close collaboration between the program’s geneticists and the bioinformatics team. This development is a real step forward, made possible by all the partners in the ŸnFABRE project, a program that is participating in an innovative way in the response to climate and environmental changes.”
ŸnFABRE is the world’s first industrial program specifically dedicated to beetle genetics applied to large-scale insect farming. The project focuses on better understanding the insect’s biology, focusing on phenotyping and genotyping. Through the project, Ÿnsect has already discovered the sequencing of the Tenebrio Molitor genome and subsequently developed the new breeding chip based on its findings.
With this latest advancement, ŸnFABRE will establish farms dedicated to genetics and will supply Ÿnsect’s vertical farms with high-performing lines of mealworms to increase the company’s productivity 15% annually, while also ensuring disease resistance.