“Metabolic engineering is a scientific art. It requires intimate knowledge of metabolism, including the substrates, products, and co-factors”, according to Conagen, a growing R&D company located in Boston, Massachusetts. Established in 2009, the company is using synthetic biology and metabolic engineering techniques to produce high-value ingredients for food, flavor, fragrance, and pharmaceutical industries.
They have developed various technologies to engineer valuable molecules, including the ArchxyTeQTM for the construction of artificial enzyme complexes, FlexyPumpTM for the design and screening of specific cell membrane transporters, and QuixyScaleTM, an automation system with micro-fluid fermenter technology to reduce the lead-time in scale-up and optimization.
We interviewed Oliver Yu, Co-founder and CEO, who will be speaking at the SynBioBeta Conference on October 3rd-5th in San Francisco.
Why is synthetic biology such an exciting field to be part of at the moment?
Some of the products we have been working on for several years are finally going into the market. It’s a long winding road but we are very excited that we are reaching the finish line!
Looking forward, which area of synthetic biology do you see the most potential for growth?
I think profitable food , beverage and feed ingredients, and flavor and fragrance ingredients are mostly covered. Hard to find many new targets that make commercial senses. Petroleum replacement compounds will continue to face pressures. I think the next big thing should be pharma applications.
Where do you see the biggest opportunities for biobased product use in the US?
In the short-term, natural sweeteners, by far.
Can you tell us about Conagen’s technologies to develop renewable bio-based production platforms?
Over the years we have invested heavily to build four production platforms, focusing on terpenoids, phenolics, alkaloids, and lipids, respectively. These platforms are bearing fruit now. Any new projects that fit into these platforms have much shorter development cycles compared to before.
What challenges persist in your field, and what progress has your team – or other peers – made in overcoming them?
I think moving from bench to production is the major missing link to many smaller companies in our industry. That’s why we work closely with our affiliate fermentation facilities, we want to shorten the distance between research and production.
What are the upcoming milestones and long-term priorities for your company?
We are sticking to our plans on R&D, production schedules, and expansion plans.
What are you most looking forward to at SynBioBeta SF 2017?
Meet our new and existing customers.
Oliver Yu will be speaking in the Lightning Talks session at SynBioBeta SF 2017 on October 4th, don’t miss out, register today.