Harrie van Erp
Rothamsted Research, UK
Harrie Van Erp has completed his PhD from Michigan State University and Post-doctoral studies from Washington State University. He is currently a Research
Scientist at Rothamsted Research where he’s involved in research focused on “Tailoring plant lipid metabolism for nutritional and industrial purposes”.
For diverse reasons, there is a growing demand for infant formula. Traditionally infant formula is produced using vegetable
oils, which have a diff erent TAG structure than human milk fat. Th is causes digestive problems in infants. In plant oils,
16:0 is at the sn-1 and sn-3 position of the glycerol backbone, but in human milk fat, the majority (70%) of 16:0 is at the sn-2
position. In the infant’s intestine, a pancreatic lipase hydrolyses 16:0 from the sn-1 and sn-3 positions leading to the formation
of calcium soaps. Th is causes constipation and reduced uptake of nutrients and Ca2+. In recent years, several companies have
addressed this problem by using chemical technologies to change the TAG structure of plant oils. However, producing a human
milk fat substitute in plants is cheaper and better for the environment. We are using a synthetic biology approach to rationally
redesign seed lipid metabolism in order to produce vegetable oils with a similar composition and structure as human milk fat.
In my presentation, I will present data showing the progress we made in the engineering of a human milk fat substitute in crop