Smart protein with multiple uses in food formulation

Cryo-SEM image of model frozen confection mix stabilised by addition of BslA

Functional food uses of a protein-based surfactant have been developed that can be sustainably sourced from a food grade bacterium, and has been demonstrated to have performance and selective stability benefits over other protein-based surfactants.

Features   Benefits
Wild-type protein produced in a food-grade bacterium ‘White biotechnology’ solution to ingredient production
Unique, ‘smart’ mechanism of action Performance ‘sweet spot’ between film / emulsion stability, and protein ease of use
Potential utility in emulsification, encapsulation, foam stabilisation, inhibition of ice crystal coarsening Multiple opportunities for productisation, de-risking investment
Expressed by a probiotic bacterium, already used in the food chain Initial regulatory provenance known

The Challenge

A combination of economic, environmental and consumer drivers make sustainable, biological surfactants of great interest for a variety of applications.  One class of surface active proteins, the fungal hydrophobins, have attracted significant industrial interest over recent years, but have encountered barriers to wide scale adoption.


Developed by researchers at Edinburgh and Dundee, the protein, called Biofilm surface layer A ('BslA'), is a ‘hydrophobin-like’ protein produced by the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, an organism used in the production of the Japanese fermented food product Natto, and has also been produced recombinantly up to 100 litre scale. Due to its unique mechanism of action, BslA is capable of forming very stable interfaces in vitro, whilst retaining an ease of use not found in other protein surfactants, especially fungal hydrophobins.

Exemplification Data

BslA is stable and soluble in aqueous media, and can be lyophilised and redissolved with no loss of activity. Confidential data has been produced that shows BslA successfully stabilises a variety of multiphase systems, including:

  • oil/water emulsions; with control of droplet size, and stability to changes in pH, temperature and other surfactants;
  • air bubbles/foams; with and without other surface actives present, and with selective cooperative stability;
  • one-step formation of multiple emulsions; w/o/w and o/w/o for encapsulation/release;
  • frozen confection; improved partial coalescence of fat droplets, and aeration, and inhibition of ice crystal coarsening.


  • Emulsions
  • Flavour/fragrance/nutrient delivery
  • Foams/bubbles
  • Texture improvement

IP Status

UK Priority Application filed on 19th August 2014

Development Status

Proof of principle data available under CDA.

Supplementary data package in preparation (regulatory pathway, toxicity, allergenicity, production batch scale-up, biodegradability).


Commercial Offering

The University of Edinburgh is seeking commercial partners to license this technology and/or collaborate on further development of the technology for commercial use.

Register your interest

If you or your company would like to find out more about this technology opportunity under Confidentiality Agreement with a view to a licence or collaborative research agreement, please complete and submit our technology enquiry form.

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