At CBMNet, we foster collaborations between academia and industry to tackle research challenges in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE). We are working to understand the mechanisms by which substances are transported into, within and out of cell factories, which will lead to the development of enabling technologies that are crucial for the future of almost all cell-based IBBE applications.
Themes we are keen to explore are:
- Getting more things in: manipulation of substrate uptake: The first step in any cell factory-based process must be the transport of reactants across the lipid membrane and into the cell. We aim to use genetic resources and molecular genetics to expand the industry’s repertoire of substrate transport options and help optimise the kick starting of a cell factory-based process.
- Getting things out: improving export/efflux of chemicals: Many industrially useful chemicals are highly toxic. We aim to investigate new applications for natural or reengineered efflux or export systems, exploiting the specialised membrane channels that nature has cultivated to keep the live reactor healthy.
- Hijacking transporters for IBBE: We aim to exploit fundamental knowledge of the structure/function relationships of transporters for biotechnology, because transporters have relaxed substrate specificity and thus will recognise and act on modified substrates.
- Moving complex molecules across membranes: Secreting and post-translationally modifying complex molecules such as proteins within cell factories can involve passage across several biological membranes, leading to bottlenecks for productivity. By leveraging molecular methods and engineering expertise, we aim to increase the yield of non-native proteins from cells.
- Altering the membrane itself: We aim to better understand how cell membranes can be engineered in cell factory systems for heightened resistance to stress and toxicity (improving the lifetime of the cell factory) and efficient transport of reactants and products.
- Putting it all together – consolidated bioprocessing: Combining all of the above themes can really leverage our knowledge for improved yield and process efficiency for industrial biotechnology.
- Socio-economic challenges related to crossing biological membranes: We need to ensure our work has lasting effects on the biotechnology sector and beyond by looking at ways to conduct responsible innovation in order to increase the social and economic benefits and effectively manage the risks of our work. We aim to study the new markets created by biotechnology opportunities and how these will impact the economy, by considering science and society relations.
”Beyond standards, an updated regulatory regime is needed to speed the safe commercialization of new host organisms, new metabolic pathways, and new chemical products. Such regimes must be harmonized across national boundaries, enabling rapid, safe, and global access to new technologies and products”
National Academy of Sciences, 2015