January 26, 2016

The Future Is Now: New Synthetic Biology Technologies for Industrial Chemicals and Biofuels

SynBioBeta London

New innovations in synthetic biology are developing at an excitingly rapid pace. The metabolic processes within microorganisms can be engineered to produce an impressive range of important chemicals. Industries are producing high concentrations of industrially important compounds–from antibiotics and vitamins to industrial flavors, fragrances and pigments–through the use of biocatalysts or fermentation of bacteria or fungi.

Chemicals are not the only product increasingly being produced by biological systems. Engineering microorganisms to produce biofuels from sustainable carbon sources, such as sugars or plant materials, provides a very real alternative to petroleum and fossil fuels. Large scale fermentation and use of biocatalysts is also more ecologically friendly compared with traditional chemical industrial processes.

The first session of SynBioBeta London 2016 will include innovators working at the cutting edge of synthetic biology research in industry. We’ll be hearing about their current activities and latest developments, as well as taking a look towards exciting future areas of research.

REG Life Sciences: Biological Catalysts for Chemicals and Fuel

One major use for synthetic biological catalysts is to develop products for the chemical and fuel markets. In 2014, REG Life Sciences was established in California as a subsidiary of the Renewable Energy Group. The aim of the company was to produce and develop renewable chemicals and fuels by modifying metabolic pathways within microorganisms. The company uses synthetic biology to channel the efficient metabolism of microorganisms into new biocatalytic capabilities engineered into the cells, including the development of renewable biofuels as an alternative to petroleum.

This technology allows renewable feedstocks such as corn and cane sugars to be converted to an industrially useful product via a single-step fermentation process. Dr. Kevin Holden is one of the researchers as REG Life Sciences and will be talking further about the company’s work and upcoming developments.

DEINOVE: Second Generation Biofuels From Nonfood Biomass

Jean-Paul Leonetti joins us from DEINOVE, a company that uses ancestral bacteria, Deinococci to develop next-generation biofuels as well as industrial compounds and chemicals. Discovered in 1956, Deinococci have a high resistance to physicochemical stress including the presence of solvents and toxic chemical compounds. This, along with the ability to integrate large fragments of DNA into its genome, makes it uniquely suited for chemical manufacture in an industrial setting. Deinococci is capable of producing rare compounds such as carotenoid pigments, antibiotics and antifungals from the co-digestion of several different sugar sources.

Through optimisation of metabolic processes within the bacteria, the company has managed to exceed  the alcohol content of 7% v/v, the threshold for producing second-generation biofuels. By using non-food biomass as a raw material for fermentation, the company is excited at the prospect of developing a sustainable next-generation biofuel to help reduce the effect of climate change.

EnobraQ: Molecules From Carbon Dioxide

In November 2015, Toulouse White Biotechnology, with lead investor Sofinnova Partners announced the development and setup of EnobraQ, its latest innovative biotech company in France. At the heart of the company is a technology using synthetic designed yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) to produce a range of chemical compounds from either atmospheric or industrially generated carbon dioxide. By using a simple and widely available starting material, EnobraQ can work with industries to reduce their carbon dioxide output while using custom chemical synthesis to create useful chemicals on an industrial scale.

EnobraQ recognizes that new technologies are needed in the fight against climate change, both to reduce the output of greenhouse gases and provide substitutes for petroleum products. The CEO, Michael Krel, will be joining us in Session 1 to discuss new innovations within the company and developing research.

Biosyntia: Biocatalysts for Fermenting Fine-chemicals

Our final showcased speaker in session 1, Dr Hans Genee, is one of the developers of the core-technologies of Biosyntia. Based in Denmark, this biotech start-up company uses synthetic biology tools to significantly advance the design-build-test cycle of metabolic engineering, developing biocatalysts for fermenting high-quality fine chemicals. “We follow methodologies that allow non-invasive methods for high-throughput screening for small molecule synthesis in cell factories” Dr Genee explains, “The coupling of design-of-experiment automation methodologies and machine learning is also very exciting and I hope that new innovations in this field can enable more predictable biological engineering.

Biosyntia is committed to using biocatalysts to reduce the environmental impact of fine chemical production and works with chemical manufacturers to establish more sustainable processes. Since 2012, the company has won numerous awards for innovation and presentation and is recognized as one of the leading cleantech startup companies in Europe.

To hear more, come to Session 1 of SynBioBeta London 2016: The Application Stack, on Wednesday April 6th.

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