According to estimates, a quarter of the world’s food crops are contaminated by aflatoxin. The toxin is a carcinogen produced by some types of fungi that are found on maize, cottonseed and other crops.
To help eradicate the problem a new open innovation initiative has been launched that is inviting gamers to find solutions.
The project is being hosted on Foldit, an online platform that poses protein-folding puzzles. Gamers who take up the call will be presented with a puzzle that has a starting enzyme that has the potential to degrade to aflatoxin. They then compete against each other to redesign the enzyme so that it can neutralize the carcinogen.
It is vital that a solution is found.
Aflatoxins cause liver cancer and are considered a Class 1 carcinogen by the World Health Organization. They also affect the functioning of the immune system and reduce recovery rates from malnutrition. And while aflatoxin limits are set in developing countries they are often unenforced.
“4.5 billion people in developing countries are chronically exposed to aflatoxin in their diet – this simply cannot continue,” said Howard Yana-Shapiro, the chief agricultural officer of Mars at the launch event of the initiative. Mars Inc is one of the project’s collaborators.
The best designs developed by gamers will be synthesized by Thermo Fisher Scientific using synthetic biology techniques. The designs will be patent-free and available in the public domain.
For more information and to take part in the gaming open innovation challenge visit the fold.it website.