KU Leuven and VIB open an experimental brewery


​Professor Kevin Verstrepen (VIB-KU Leuven) and his research group are starting an experimental brewery at the Kasteelpark in Arenberg (Heverlee). The official inauguration took place on Friday 27 October. Professor Verstrepen’s team is known across the globe for its research into yeast. Their expertise and extensive yeast databank, among other things, have laid the foundations for numerous new beer flavors. This has been achieved through collaborations with large and small breweries both at home and abroad. Now, with support from Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), Professor Verstrepen is setting up his own brewery. 

Scientists reveal the relationship between sugar and cancer


A nine-year joint research project conducted by VIB, KU Leuven and VUB has led to a crucial breakthrough in cancer research. Scientists have clarified how the Warburg effect, a phenomenon in which cancer cells rapidly break down sugars, stimulates tumor growth. This discovery provides evidence for a positive correlation between sugar and cancer, which may have far-reaching impacts on tailor-made diets for cancer patients. The research has been published in the leading academic journal Nature Communications.

VIB groups and big data


Jeroen Raes (VIB-KU Leuven Center for Microbiology): “The microbiome field is still in the development phase, so the datasets aren’t as big as they are, for example, in genetics GWAS studies. This being said, in our Flemish Gut Flora Project, there are about 3,500 individuals for which we have microbiome and genetics data, and will be generating metabolomics in the future. In addition to all the clinical and questionnaire data, this is becoming quite an impressive dataset, I’d say – and the multiomics integration won’t be straightforward. Things will become even bigger in the future – for the trials we are currently planning, we will be collecting between 15,000 and 20,000 samples. The biggest challenge there is not the data analysis, but the logistics! ! Yet, it’s still not enough –in our recent Science paper, we estimated that at least 40,000 individuals need to be sampled to have a complete view of gut biodiversity in the healthy population. So, we still have quite some work ahead of us!”

Aphea.Bio aims at leading position in next generation agricultural biologicals


VIB, Ghent University and KU Leuven have launched a new spin-off: Aphea.Bio. This new  company will develop sustainable agricultural products based on natural microorganisms to increase crop yields and to protect them against specific fungal diseases. Thanks to a successful Series A financing round and an R&D grant approved by Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO), Aphea.Bio is now backed by 9 million euros of funding, giving it a clear shot at a leading position in the fast-emerging market of biopesticides and biostimulants. Headquartered in Ghent , Belgium, Aphea.Bio will be led by CEO Dr. Isabel Vercauteren and CSO Dr. Steven Vandenabeele.

UCL/VIB research shows that anti mycoticum fights Staphylococcus aureus


​​Researchers at VIB, KU Leuven and the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) reveal an innovative strategy to fight against bacterial biofilms. Professor Françoise Van Bambeke’s teams from the Louvain Drug Research Institute of UCL and Professor Patrick Van Dijck’s teams from VIB and KU Leuven are opening up a new path in treating serious infections which affect patients in hospital. The results of the study are published in the scientific journal, Nature Communications.

Beer yeasts are dogs, wine yeasts are cats


People have been enjoying the ability of yeasts to produce beer and wine since the dawn of civilization. Researchers from VIB, KU Leuven and Ghent University found that yeasts used for beer and winemaking have been domesticated in the 16th century, around 100 years before the discovery of microbes. Together with a US research team, the Belgian teams analyzed the genomes and fermentation characteristics of more than 150 industrial yeasts used to produce different beers, wines and bread. The results show that the hundreds of beer and wine yeasts available today are the result of brewers and winemakers unconsciously selecting variants that can consume specific sugars, tolerate industrial conditions and produce desired flavors. Fascinatingly, beer yeasts show stronger signs of domestication than wine yeasts, likely because they happily lived in the brewery throughout the year and lost all contact with their feral family members. The results are published in the scientific journal Cell.

The Flemish Gut Flora Project Is Flourishing


​Did you know that one of the world’s largest gut microbiome research efforts is run by a VIB lab? Jeroen Raes and his team started a bottom-up initiative in 2012 that would soon turn out to be a huge research project involving the collection of thousands of Flemish stool samples. The goal of the Flemish Gut Flora Project? To investigate the links between the billions of gut bacteria, health and lifestyle. The project’s first extensive paper was released in April and was immediately a massive hit in scientific circles – and beyond.

Unraveling the food web in your gut


​Despite recent progress, the organization and ecological properties of the intestinal microbial ecosystem remain under investigated. Using a manually curated metabolic module framework for (meta-)genomic data analysis, Sara Vieira-Silva, Gwen Falony and colleagues from the Jeroen Raes lab (VIB/KU Leuven) studied species-function relationships in gut microbial genomes and microbiomes. The team of the Flemish Gut Flora Project observed that half of the bacteria in the human gut were metabolic generalists, while others were specializing and feeding on specific substrates, such as carbohydrates, proteins, or lipids.

Gut Flora may lead to better diagnosis tool for liver disease and this opens new avenues for treatment


​Primary sclerosing cholangitis, also known as PSC, is a liver disease with no effective medical treatment. Liver transplantation is the only proven long-term treatment of PSC, although only a fraction of individuals with PSC will ultimately require it. The vast majority of patients with PSC also have inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis), possibly implying that the intestine plays a role in the origin of this PSC. Researchers from VIB, UZ Leuven and KU Leuven now describe for the first time how changes in the intestinal microbiota are specifically associated with this disease.