March 7, 2017
Heurisko is Supporting the Development of the Bioeconomy Through Directed Evolution in vivo
Heurisko, an international leader in the field of directed evolution, is a small, privately-held biotechnology company founded in 2007 by Philippe Marlière, a scientist and entrepreneur and a co-inventor of the automated evolution technology. Philippe, along with Rupert Mutzel (Institut für Biologie, Freie Universität Berlin), coordinated an international team of researchers who, in 2011, succeeded in generating a bacterium possessing DNA in which thymine is replaced by the synthetic building block 5-Chlorouracil (c), a substance toxic for other organisms.
Heurisko’s Corporate Philosophy
The company acknowledges that human adaptation of natural ecosystems to better address our needs has been taking place for many years and this adaptation today involves sophisticated methods due to the complexity of the components of these ecosystems. Heurisko strives to harness the power of natural selection for the accession of bioprocesses with better economics.
They believe that industrial biotechnology alone is limited in its ability to deliver solutions for feeding the planet and sustainably produce fuels, chemicals and materials. The company believes that heuristic and non-GM techniques that harness natural selection are necessary in combination with industrial biotechnology. This combination will more efficiently achieve desired solutions.
Heurisko’s Platform: How It Works and What It Offers
Heurisko has developed a platform based on this philosophy for the enhancement of microbial strains and their adaptation to industrial needs. It was designed to produce solutions that connect the available biodiversity to desired biocatalytic outcomes.
Through its platform, Heurisko develops cutting-edge evolutionary setups, involving innovative selective schemes conducted in its proprietary automated technology. Heurisko believes that its multi-dimensional platform will offer solutions where regulatory issues prevent some markets from genetic and metabolic engineering tools.
One of the processes that the platform offers is the mimicking of natural selection through directed evolution in vivo. In the ex vivo approach, the natural selection is mimicked toward a user-defined goal. The three steps of evolution – (1) diversification, 2) selection, 3) amplification – are emulated in a laboratory setting, operate at the molecular level (nucleic acids) and focus on specific molecular activities (enzymes, proteins). Heurisko proposes to both generate diversity and screen activity at the organism’s level, (in vivo approach) to optimize natural organisms (non-GMOs) and to complement existing genetic and metabolic techniques to engineer GMOs.
Another process is the harnessing of the power of adaptative evolution. Adaptive evolution is a potent tool for biological discovery and engineering. Their platform uses the inherent competition between organisms and the natural accumulation of mutations within microbial population, desired phenotypic traits can be selected for without requiring a priori knowledge on how the traits might arise.
Applications of the Platform
The following applications of the platform, as outlined on the company website, have been key to the success of Heurisko in the international biotechnology community:
- Enhance tolerance to adverse conditions. The platform promotes genetic variants with increased tolerance to production parameters such as a given toxic compound concentration (product, by-product or solutes in substrates), pH, temperature, etc.
- Growth on complex and alternative substrate. Evolving strains capable of growing on the appropriate feedstock greatly impacts any bioprocess’ feasibility and profitability. The platform enables the strain to adapt to complex growth media (including non-natural nutrients), substrate simplification (weaning from growth factor), alternative substrates, etc.
- Enabling technology for genetic engineering. Genetically engineered strains are designed to express a desired function. For this purpose, the genetic information coding for corresponding enzymes is introduced within a host organism that is expected to express properly the activity. However, regulation and expression of the altered part of the metabolic pathway is usually suboptimal, leading to a reduced growth rate when compared to the original host strain. Because it enables the growth rate recovery of engineered strains, the approach is the ideal complement to genetic engineering in developing industrial strains. The platform supports the implementation of alternative metabolic pathways through the systematic improvement of heterologous enzymatic activities.
- Increase growth rate. The higher the production strain’s growth rate, the higher the productivity of the bioprocess. The production strain’s growth rate is therefore a critical factor for any bioprocess’ feasibility and profitability. The platform promotes genetic variants with the highest growth rate.
- Steady bioproduction. As they grow and thrive during industrial production, microbial strains are subject to evolution and natural selection. To ensure a steady production on an industrial scale, production strains must retain stability over evolutionary times. The platform effectively creates stable strains for industrial applications.
- Genetic engine. Heurisko’s evolutionary devices, which control the selective pressure over a microbial population, are used as genetic engine to generate valuable information of industrial and academic interest. The schematic below from their website demonstrates how this genetic engine functions.
Heurisko’s website has a link to publications highlighting synthetic biology experiments utilizing its technological platform. (www.heurisko-inc.com/publications)
Simon Trancart at SynBioBeta London
Simon Trancart, Heurisko CEO
Simon has a strong science and business background which well suits him for the role of CEO. Simon earned diplomas from the Ecole Centrale Paris (France) and Escola Politécnica da Universidade de São Paulo (Brazil). Previously, Simon served successively as Deputy Technical Director in Brazil, Product Manager and Regional Sales Manager for Central and South America with an engineering company that designs and supplies equipment and turnkey plants for sugar, refining and bioethanol industries from cane and beets. Simon is able to converse in five languages, giving him and Heurisko the ability to easily connect with their international client base.
Simon will be joining the SynBioBeta London 2017 conference being held from April 4 to April 6 at Imperial College London as a speaker. Simon will be participating in a session which will highlight advancements in metabolic engineering for synthetic biology.
The capabilities of the synthetic biology field are allowing for better engineering of biology in order to create improved chemicals, drugs, foods, fuels and more via sustainable processes. Heurisko’s unique platform is a great fit for discussion in this session. Simon will specifically discuss how this platform uses both non-GMO and biotechnology processes to advance the field of gene editing and metabolic engineering.