Team:Toulouse INSA-UPS/Poster

Poster: Toulouse INSA-UPS

iGEMINI, a coculture for food supplements in space


Space exploration drives us further away from Earth and will lead to year-long space travel. Some essential nutrients such as vitamins cannot be stored on the spacecraft since they rapidly lose nutritional value over time. iGEMINI aims to supplement astronauts’ food with nutritional and tasty yeast. We designed a quasi-autonomous coculture between the acetogenic bacterium Clostridium ljungdahlii and the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This system uses minimal resources, all of which are currently considered as waste on spacecraft. As a proof of concept, we engineered the yeast to produce a provitamin A, an essential vitamin for human health. Since the astronauts' perception of taste is altered by physiological changes in their body, we wish to give them the freedom to choose their favorite flavors using optogenetic systems. Our project builds new bridges between space research and microbiology, and multiple efforts have been made to promote space synthetic biology as a truly promising and exciting scientific field.


We are a team of 8 students. Together, we directed the brainstorming sessions, worked in the lab during the summer, sought money to fund the project, learned how to code the Wiki, found and interviewed all experts, and communicated our project to the general public. Each one of us was also assigned special missions.


Laurène Adam

Université Paul Sabatier

Collaborations and partnerships
Bacteria fermentation


Laura Balcells

Université Paul Sabatier

β-carotene boosters
Virtual exhibition


Cécilia Brancheriau

INSA Toulouse

Yeast fermentation
Video game


Arno Bruel

INSA Toulouse

Video game
Bacteria fermentation
Virtual exhibition


Pierre Demoux

INSA Toulouse



Solène Frapard

INSA Toulouse

Human Practices
Expert interviews
Sustainable development
Yeast fermentation


Eliot Goguet

INSA Toulouse

Red regulation


Anton Mykhailiuk

Université Paul Sabatier

Wet Lab organization
Blue regulation

Project description

Enabling fresh vitamin supply during long-duration space missions...
Currently, food for the International Space Station (ISS) is prepared on earth and sent to space via cargo spaceships several times a year. The transportation is not compatible with long-distance space travel, especially because of vitamin instability.

Decrease of vitamin A with time

...using a coculture system...
Our system takes into account spaceship constraints and very limited resources, whilst enabling the production of yeast-based food supplements from H2 and CO2 via a coculture between Clostridium ljungdahlii and Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Coculture illustration

...that allows astronauts to choose the flavor!
The perception of taste can change in space. This alteration is different for each astronaut, which means that their preferences can vary wildly. This is why we designed an optogenetic system that enables them to choose their favorite flavor.

Cosmos eating a super tasty yeast-based food supplement

We designed a coculture between Clostridium ljungdahlii and Saccharomyces cerevisiae in order to grow the yeast from H2 and CO2. Its biomass will be used as food supplements. We engineered the yeast to be more nutritious by producing a provitamin A: β-carotene. We also wanted to modify the yeast so it produces a flavor of lemon or sweet rose, in addition to its natural yeast flavor. The choice of the flavor would be made using optogenetic systems. The lemon flavor is given by limonene and the rose flavor is given by geraniol. We chose these flavors and this vitamin as a proof of concept since they derive from the same pathway: the mevalonate pathway. We therefore enhanced the flow of this pathway.


Modeling was central during iGEMINI. Here are its strategy and main results:

Throughout our project, modeling helped dimension our device, complete its product lifecycle and facilitate discussions with experts and non-experts.

Fermentation results: assessing our strain properties

To prove that the coculture is feasible, we carried out experiments on the yeast and on the bacteria independently before trying them together in a coculture system.

Growth of Clostridium ljungdahlii on CO2 and H2 and its production of ethanol and acetate over time.

As you can see in our results, C. ljungdahlii grows from CO2 and H2 and produces acetate and ethanol. The growth rate was 0.022, a µ below our expectations. However, the experimental set-up can be improved to achieve better growth.

Growth of Saccharomyces cerevisiae on a mix of ethanol and acetate over time.

We obtained an average growth rate of 0.11. Ethanol and acetate are both consumed at the same time. These results are encouraging because neither acetate nor ethanol accumulates over time.

The experiments on S. cerevisiae and C. ljungdahlii gave us parameters close to the model which proved that a coculture was feasible. Because of COVID-19 restrictions we could not experiment on the coculture itself.

Cloning results: improvement of the mevalonate pathway

GGPP analysis by LC-MS. In orange are represented the GGPP quantities in BY4741 DPP1::tHMG1-CrtE, a strain carrying a truncated version of the HMG-CoA reductase HMG1 and the GGPP synthase CrtE. In grey are represented the GGPP quantities in the wild type.

GPP and GGPP are the products of the mevalonate pathway. All our clonings aim to produce compounds which derive from the mevalonate pathway (β-carotene, limonene and geraniol). Our strain BY4741 DPP::tHMG1-CrtE showed a five-fold increase in GGPP concentration compared to the wild-type yeast (figure on the left).

We successfully enhanced the mevalonate pathway in S. cerevisiae which would be our backbone strain for further cloning experiments.


The implementation of our project combined project management tools and collaborations with advisors such as start-up incubators. After completing the first two modules that defined our market and our technical and societal constraints, we developed an entrepreneurship strategy in the third module. We created a business model and plan to examine the kind of company we want to be, the investment cost of our project over 3 years and the major risks we must consider. Finally, we explored opportunities to pursue our project after the competition with some of our partners.
All along our reasoning, we integrated the four Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that corresponded the most to our project: “good health and well-being”, “industry, innovation and infrastructure”, “responsible consumption and production”, “partnerships for the goals”.

Through our modeling and implementation approach, we were able to develop a 3D model of our system (see below).

Science communication

We have successfully undertaken a communication campaign to link microbiology, synthetic biology and space. We sought to address different audiences, which led us to carry out various outreach initiatives.

Our greatest achievement is to have built a bridge between synthetic biology and space. Many initiatives are now flourishing at this interface in our city of Toulouse.

Integrated Human Practices

Throughout our project we thoroughly discussed with sixteen experts to build a project addressing the real problems of long-duration missions in space. We kept on reaching out to experts to ensure the feasibility, acceptability and scientific rigor of our system. These experts came from various fields and allowed us to adapt our system through their advice.
Here is what they helped us with:


This year has been a very special edition for Team iGEM Toulouse as for many teams in the world. We created a project about Space from scratch, although neither we nor our supervisors were experts in this field. We opened eyes to what can be done by bridging the gap between Space and Synthetic Biology. Many initiatives are now flourishing at this interface, and we will be there to applaud their success.

Our auto-evaluation

Gold #1 (Integrated Human Practices)
Gold #3 (Project Modeling)
Gold #5 (Partnership)
Gold #6 (Science Communication)

We compete for

Best Model

Best Educational Engagement

Best Supporting Entrepreneurship

Best Sustainable Development Impact


We would like to thank our instructors: Brice Enjalbert1, Yves Roméo2,3, Anthony Henras2,3, and Pierre Millard1.
Also our advisors: Caroline Rousseau1, Cédric Montanier1, Florian Deligne2,4, Régis Fauré1, Leo Gerlin2,5, Matthieu Guionnet1, Alix Meunier2,3 and Stéphanie Heux1.

We also wanted to thank all the iGEM teams with whom we shared plenty of great moments: AshesiGhana team, Concordia team, Calgary team, Pittsburgh team, iGEM France, Marburg team, WG team and TUDelft team.

1INSA & Toulouse Biotechnology Institute (TBI)
2Université Paul Sabatier, 3Integrative Biology Center (CBI)
4Laboratoire de Recherche en Sciences Végétales (LRSV),5Laboratory of Plant-Microbe Interactions (LIPM)


Main references

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  • NASA, “Closing the Loop: Recycling Water and Air in Space.”
  • Romanoff, “When It Comes to Living in Space, It’s a Matter of Taste - Scientific American.” [Online]. Available:
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