DOMINO: a European research project on the role of microbiota diversity in fermented foods on health

Fermented foods are an important part of our diet. These foods contain a great diversity of microbiota (assemblies of different microbial species that interact with each other) that allow to improve the preservation of food, to produce a typicality and a great diversity of taste, but also to increase the nutritional value of these foods.

Microbial biodiversity at the service of a healthy and sustainable diet

Recent scientific hypotheses suggest that a diet enriched with fermented foods would have a beneficial effect on health thanks to a succession of interconnected effects (interaction with the intestinal microbiota, nutritional added value of foods, molecules with potentially stimulating physiological signals). This “domino” effect allows to delineate three scientific questions that will be at the center of the project (see figure below). Can we define biodiversity-based microbial solutions to respond to the sustainable production of fermented foods (fermentation of plant products)? Does frequent consumption of fermented foods impact health by stimulating the symbiotic relationship between humans and their gut microbiota? Which experimental methodologies would be the most suitable for responding to these two problems and guaranteeing a rapid and reliable estimate of the beneficial role or risk of a new fermented food based on more sustainable food resources?


The DOMINO project will start in March 2023 for a period of 5 years and will pursue six scientific ambitions:

1. To cross and compare the data on the food and intestinal microbiome (diversity, functional activities) with those of human physiology and metabolism to allow a more relevant identification of biomarkers related to the health effect of fermented foods. In particular, the project will launch a long-term (6 months) nutritional study in 3 geographical locations in Europe (UK, France, Italy).

2. Drawing of the consortia microbial On to measure in pulling left of the great diversity natural of the microbiota food go beyond the canonical concept of probiotic microbial strains.

3. Putting computational biology and modeling at the center of the knowledge acquisition process. Open data and tools to the scientific community to better highlight and support functional microbial biodiversity in food design.

4. Bringing the discipline of food microbiology into a new era using multidisciplinary approaches to synthetic ecology.

5. Use templates ex vivo for rapid and standardized protocols for evaluating the health benefits / risks of fermented foods.

6. Pilot the design of fermented plant-based products to meet the combined needs of society’s food transition, the urgency of the sustainability of the food system, and to create the excitement of a profitable economic marketplace for European small businesses. To achieve this, the project will start for the first time the creation of “living-labs” in six different European cultural areas (Estonia / Baltic countries, France, Italy, Spain, Germany / Austria, Ireland / UK). These living-labs will make it possible to realize a vision of the future of fermented foods in Europe while strengthening citizens’ trust in healthy diets thanks to their involvement and a real integration of their points of view.

An interdisciplinary European consortium of excellence


map of DOMINO's European partners

Under the coordination of the Micalis Institute of the INRAE ​​in Jouy-en-Josas, five other INRAE ​​units in association with AgroParisTech and the CRNH in Auvergne (the human nutrition unit in Theix, the research unit on cheese in Aurillac, the Mycology and Food Safety of Bordeaux, the Sayfood unit (Paris-Saclay Food & Bioproduct Engineering) and the MaIAGE unit (Applied Mathematics and Computer Science from Genome to the Environment) will combine their skills with those of a twenty partners from 10 European countries in order to combine a scientific program strongly marked by interdisciplinarity and create a common thread between microbial ecology, human nutrition, food process engineering, “omics” data modeling, consumer social sciences, economics of food systems and participatory co-creation.

The European DOMINO project in figures:

Duration: 5 years (2023-2028)

Budget: € 12 million (€ 10.8 million European Research Agency + € 1.2 million UK RResearch Innovation)

Number of countries: 10

Number of partners: 18 (of which 12 academic partners, 2 technology centers and 4 SMEs / Start-Ups)

Number of living laboratories: 6

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