VIRTUOUS is a virtual tongue made by an integrated computational framework able to screen food for natural ligands targeting taste receptors. The proposed intelligent algorithm, by integrating drug discovery techniques, machine learning classifiers, algorithms for big data, cloud computing, and experimental data will predict the organoleptic profile of a specific food based on its chemical composition. The outcomes of this research will shed light on the mechanisms driving the information transfer from the chemistry level, where food molecular constituents bind taste receptors, toward a cascade of molecular, supramolecular and cellular events emerging as an elaborated sensation which strongly contribute to the food organoleptic profile.
The joint exchange programme involves 9 participants from 4 countries: Italy, Greece, Spain, Switzerland. Participants are both from academic (4 beneficiaries) and non-academic (5 beneficiaries) sectors. The balance between academy and industry and the interdisciplinary nature of the Consortium will grant a unique stimulating environment for researchers involved in the projects. Relevance of the program is identified at European and worldwide level, both for academia and industry. The idea of conceiving a taste predictor to be applied on European food products will boost and widen European food market at global level.
The VIRTUOUS tongue may be also thought has an “food computer aided design tool” for EU food technology. For example, based on taste prediction the VIRTUOUS platform may be used in the future to predict the results of a specific grape graft. The Virtuous tongue may be also combined with other technologies to enhance precision agriculture. The VIRTUOUS research also links taste receptors’ activation to the activity of nuclear receptors following the paradigm of the Mediterranean Diet: “good and healthy”. Finally, the project is related to neuroscience, by considering molecular mechanisms of brain elaboration in taste.