About us

The Research Group of Industrial Microbiology and Food Biotechnology (IMDO) was created in October 1994. The research theme deals with 'Research and Development for a Healthy Diet'. The establishment of IMDO meant the actual start of research in food biotechnology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, which is nowadays one of the keystones of the university's research in applied biological sciences. IMDO conquered a very specific niche in the field of industrial food biotechnology, i.e. the qualitative and quantitative (mathematical modelling) study of starter cultures (lactic acid bacteria) with particular functionalities, within the area of food fermentation, food safety, and human health. IMDO specialised in food fermentations, process control, and predictive microbiology. Research of IMDO focuses on the production of fine chemicals (organic acids, bacteriocins, exopolysaccharides, aromas) and enzyme activities for application in the food industry, both fermentative production processes and their downstream processing, and in situ production processes using functional, multiple starter cultures (bacteriocin-producing starters for cheese, sausage and sourdough manufacture, exopolysaccharide-producing strains for the production of yoghurt and other fermented milk drinks, aroma-producing starter cultures in cheese fermentation). Human health related topics encompass probiotics and prebiotics as functional foods (antimicrobial potential, underlying mechanisms, microbiological and technological aspects of commerical preparations).
Because of the profound experience and state-of-the-art laboratory, IMDO can cover a broad research concept that will lead to functional starter cultures and bioprotective cultures:

  • Isolation and identification of appropriate, interesting strains and new taxa through studies of the quantitative biodiversity and population dynamics of naturally (artisan) fermented foods;
  • Physiological and technological characterization of (artisan) fermented food ecosystems and isolated strains through biochemical, molecular, and metabolite target analyses and description and selection of new molecules and interesting strains;
  • Unravelling the functionality of selected strains, including interactions between strains and with the food matrix, through extracellular flux analysis by means of simulation media (during laboratory fermentations) and a quantitative description (mathematical modelling of growth and product formation, functionality, and competitiveness through 'positive' predictive microbiology) to link (controlled) microbial fermentation processes with quality of the food end-products;
  • Adaptation of new, functional starter cultures to industry's process technology by means of functionality analysis, pilot scale experiments, and challenge tests to introduce strains and processes with superior (artisan) quality characteristics, antimicrobial and organoleptic characterisitics, and/or health-promoting properties.