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CEA-Jacob involved in a new program dedicated to beetle genetics

CEA-Jacob is collaborating with Ÿnsect in an industrial program, ŸNFABRE, devoted to the genetics of the Tenebrio Molitor beetle larva. This program has been awarded funding under the "Structuring Projects for Competitiveness" program of the French government's investment program for the future (PIA), operated by Bpifrance. It is in line with the actions carried out by Ÿnsect and the CEA, recently supported by Horizon H2020 and the ANR.

Published on 19 May 2022

Composed of more than 70% of proteins, the larva of the Tenebrio Molitor beetle (mealworm) is a natural source of nutrients for many animals. It is very suitable for industrial production, with a high added value thanks to its nutritional performance and an important health benefit generated in animals and plants.

Selecting more efficient mealworms, with faster growth or higher nutritional performance: this is the objective of the French start-up Ÿnsect in launching ŸNFABRE, the first industrial insect genomic selection program.

At the frontier between R&D and industry, these research programs draw on the expertise of the Genoscope and SEPIA (CEA-Jacob) laboratories1 and a consortium of companies2. Dedicated to the genetics of beetles, it was designed to provide concrete answers to food safety and environmental issues.

The consortium was awarded €4.34 million in funding under the "Structuring Projects for Competitiveness" call for projects of the future investment program (PIA), operated by Bpifrance3.

This program is a continuation of various actions carried out by Ÿnsect and the CEA in the genetic selection of mealworm strains of interest. Among them, the assembly of the Tenebrio Molitor genome was carried out by the Genoscope in collaboration with Ÿnsect as part of the FARMYNG program (supported by Horizon H2020). The combination of state-of-the-art methodologies allowed to obtain a very high quality genome with DNA sequences lengths almost as long as chromosomes. These results led to a publication: "Chromosome-scale assembly of the yellow mealworm genome - A high-quality reference genome for Tenebrio molitor breeding and sustainable production". This new genomic resource lays part of the foundation for the ŸNFABRE program, for which the Genoscope will continue to provide its genetic and sequencing expertise.

Reasoned genomic selection, based on the characterization of several biological traits (phenotyping) and on genome mapping (genotyping), is the core of the ŸNFABRE program. It will be carried out on four key traits of interest for the entomoculture sector: growth, reproduction, food conversion and disease resistance.

1 : Contact CEA > Amin Madoui

2 : Aprex Solutions for its expertise in the development of digital image/video analysis tools driven by artificial intelligence, Thermo Fisher Scientific for its support for high throughput sequencing and genotypingt. 

3 : Press release BPI France 27.01.2022

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