Saskatchewan Polytechnic DNA research safeguards beer
Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s BioScience Applied Research Centre (SBARC) is collaborating on a research project that will identify and protect the yeast strain that is essential to the production of some regional beers.
Working with Great Western Brewing Company (GWBC), a Saskatoon brewery, SBARC researchers are using DNA techniques to characterize the genetic identity of the firm’s proprietary yeast culture. “Saskatchewan Polytechnic has the expertise, equipment and technology to identify the yeast’s genotype,” says Anita Fuller, GWBC’s manager of corporate quality assurance. “This baseline information is critical to recovering the yeast if it were damaged or contaminated in a crisis, such as a fire or flood.”
Under the supervision of principal researcher Lance Wall, a student from Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s BioScience Technology program is collecting DNA from GWBC’s yeast and comparing it with catalogued yeast strains. Once the company’s strain is identified, GWBC plans to deep-freeze a sample of the yeast culture off-site to protect it and ensure the continuity of the company’s beer brands.
“Applied research projects in the BioScience Technology program directly incorporate the knowledge and skills students acquire both in the classroom and in the lab,” says Wall. “These experiences not only enhance learning, but also increase our graduates’ marketability and provide value to our industry partners.”
SBARC assists business and industry in testing new products, techniques and technology. Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s Office of Applied Research and Innovation (OARI) facilitated SBARC’s partnership with GWBC by securing a $25,000 grant through the College and Community Innovation Program of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), enabling GWBC to access SBARC’s research and development expertise.
Saskatchewan Polytechnic serves 26,000 distinct students through applied learning opportunities at campuses in Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, Regina and Saskatoon, and through extensive distance education opportunities. Programs serve every economic and public service sector. As a polytechnic, the organization provides the depth of learning appropriate to employer and student need, including certificate, diploma and degree programs, and apprenticeship training. Saskatchewan Polytechnic engages in applied research, drawing on faculty expertise to support innovation by employers, and providing students the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills.
GWBC was founded in 1989 when 16 former Carling O’Keefe employees pooled their resources and started the brewery to save their jobs. The company now is one of Canada’s most successful regional brewers, has more than 90 employees and produces three world-class brand families of beer: Original 16, Great Western Brand Family and Brewhouse.