Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain
By sequencing the genomes of the microbiome, or community of microbes, present in the food we eat, IBM researchers as well as partnering organizations like Mars, Inc., Bio-Rad, and Cornell University are turning the corner to a new and more predictive kind of food testing. This new regimen may allow inspectors to identify dangerous pathogens inhabiting food with better sensitivity well before they make anyone sick. This rapidly evolving field at the intersection of big data and microbiology is built upon the technology of next generation sequencing (NGS), which researchers are using to amass an unprecedented reference database of genomes through an IBM-led partnership called the Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain.
In 2018, the consortium assembled a database of all of the bacterial genomes that have been sequenced by researchers over the past two decades. With the insight gained from 500 terabytes of complex experimental data, the team was able to ascertain the differences between the microbiomes of safe ingredients (which researchers believe have a distinct and standard composition) and potentially dangerous ones (which could be detected as deviations from the standard composition, indicating contamination by pathogens or other ingredients.)