"As Danone is working on probiotics products, ERGO is a great database to help us find probiotic functions in our strains," said Danone's team leader in probiotic gene identification, Dr Sophie Legrain-Raspaud.
The company's research centre, the Daniel Carasso Centre, already boasts a unique collection of about 3000 lactic strains, built up since 1919, and currently spends half of its research budget on probiotics. The total R&D budget for the group is €130m.
A spokesperson from the Daniel Carasso Centre told NutraIngredients.com: "One great feature in ERGO is the ability to quickly identify genes that are unique for a certain species or a group. This makes it possible to get an indication of which genes are responsible for giving each species its distinctive technological and probiotic properties."
The ERGO database already contains over 900 genomes at various stages of completion, and is said to go beyond conventional DNA analysis systems by combining "pattern-based analysis with comparative genomics and enables visualisation of genes in the contexts of regulation, gene expression data, phylogeny, chromosomal neighbourhoods and identification of natural gene fusions."
The licence agreement will enhance Danone's R&D capabilities in the probiotics market, already one of the fastest growing sectors in fresh dairy markets with a retail growth of about 12 per cent, according to Euromonitor.
Danone's sales of its probiotic Activia yoghurt brand rose 30 per cent in the third quarter of 2005.
Activia, launched in the US in February, contains a unique bacterial strain called Bifidus Essensis that claims to improve digestion and keep the body healthy.
The group's other big probiotic brand, Actimel, increased sales by 15 per cent in the same period. Market research firm AC Nieslen named Actimel the UK's fastest growing food brand in 2004.
Most of the major European dairy and ingredients groups believe that probiotics, live bacterial strains considered to offer digestive health benefits to consumers, will be one of the dairy sector's major growth drivers over the next few years.