On Tuesday 27th April, CIRCLES partners gathered for their 2nd annual meeting.

Unfortunately, due to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, the meeting had to be held for the second time in an online format. The project is now in its 3rd year and has spent half of its time in pandemic. Due to the manifold obstacles that the Covid-pandemic imposed on the work of CIRCLES partners, as for example a restricted ability to collect and sequence microbiome samples, the European Commission has granted the project a 1-year extension. Many deliverables have been postponed, giving partners time to catch up on delays. Despite these unexpected drawbacks and changes to the timeline, the project has received an excellent evaluation from the Commission for the first reporting period and project coordinator Prof. Marco Candela optimistically stressed that “we are at a good stage of advancement”.

The project is currently in its observational phase, in which researchers are thoroughly investigating microbiomes of animals, environment, food, feed and farmers (thus all actors of the food system, from fark to fork) in the different food chains. The activities include taking field samples and analyzing them with 16S- and Shotgun sequencing methods. This first project phase is expected to provide an extensive and comprehensive microbiome survey across the whole food system and will allow a unique system vision of the role of microbiomes as determinants of the food system performances.

Looking ahead to 2022, the intervention phase is due to begin. This second project phase aims at translating discoveries from the observational phase into concrete microbiome applications. It involves a close, live and dynamic dialogue between companies and academic scientists with the objective to design Smart Microbiomes Modulators (SMMs). These modulators will be implemented into concrete microbiome applications to improve food chain performances in terms of productivity, quality, safety and sustainability. For instance, new combinations of beneficial microbes will be tested and validated as probiotics and feed additives.

Lastly, some exciting communication and dissemination activities are planned for this year. Among others, CIRCLES will be on board the sailing boat Moana60LAB for a sampling campaign to study and raise awareness on the impact of anthropic activities on the marine water microbiomes. The scientific cruise will take place from June to October in the Mediterranean and is organised by the citizen science project “Sailing for blue life”. More info soon on our website and Twitter channel.