The genomic discovery system, ERGO, has been developed by US-based Integrated Genomics and is said to contain the largest available database of microbial genome data, including genome-derived metabolic reconstructions, and the chemical reaction networks of metabolic pathways.
Probiotics are thought to boost immunity and fight disease by balancing the intestinal microflora. However it is difficult to prove this effect on healthy adults, leading to doubts over their benefits.
The increasing use of genomics is expected to help support the potential benefits of probiotics by confirming their mechanism of action in the body.
"When you have the total DNA sequence, or a blueprint, of an organism, you can do a certain type of experiment - ask the bacteria how they are feeling and what they are doing," explained Dr Eric Johansen, vice president of applied biotechnology at Chr Hansen.
"All functional foods will benefit from genomics but it has probably caught on quickly in probiotics because of the complexity of the bacteria," he told NutraIngredients.com.
"Ultimately we would like to develop new probiotics based on how the current ones work. No-one believes that the current ones are the best and if we could develop new bacteria by improving these," continued Dr Johansen.
Chr Hansen, the leading supplier of probiotic bacteria to the food industry, says it spends 7 per cent of revenues on R&D with a strong focus on genomics.
"The database has somewhere over 600 bacterial genome sequences, which is a tremendous amount of knowledge, in a format that can be searched by our team," added Dr Johansen.
The tool will also be used across the company's range of starter cultures.
Chr Hansen recently announced that it is looking at options for its ingredients business so that the group can concentrate on pharmaceuticals.