Author Archives: Jen Vanderhoven

Let’s draw blue skies research out of our universities and into the economy

Let’s draw blue skies research out of our universities and into the economy

A great idea often starts with a lightbulb moment, a flash of inspiration that feels like it could be something big – but for many ideas that’s as far as it gets. For successful innovators, getting to the point where things really take off is a long and often winding road of hope, promise, disappointment and renewal.

Entrepreneurs who grow a good idea into a business are critical to our economic success, but entrepreneurs are not only born and raised in the business community. There are about 1,000 businesses in the UK that are run by university academics who have taken the plunge and are commercialising the research that they have invested years of their lives in.

These include companies such as 2D tech, which was spun out of Manchester University to find commercial applications for graphene, Run3D, an Oxford University spinout that uses biomechanical engineering to help sportspeople improve their performance, or Magnomatics from Sheffield University, which has developed a gearbox that doesn’t actually have any gears in it.

If we are to maintain our position as a world leader in innovation, the UK needs these research-led businesses to scale up, not sell up. As universities minister Jo Johnson recognised recently in a speech to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, our universities need to “find a new gear” and accelerate the adoption of the best practice on research commercialisation that already exists in some of our universities so that it becomes mainstream.

This view is backed up by statistics. Although patent applications in the UK have increased by around 150% over the last decade, most of that growth was in the first five years. While the number of businesses that are being spun out of our universities has been growing, the figures for those that are still operating after three years has been stagnant since 2009-10 and, on average, they have just four employees.

Poor commercialisation of UK research is a problem that Johnson has committed to solve through his new knowledge exchange framework. It will benchmark performance in university-business collaboration, with the aim of driving up standards and recognising that the strengths of different types of institution are not based solely on their work in research.

This should be welcomed, particularly by growing businesses that are faced with a wide choice of universities and which can struggle to identify the best partner. However, we need to make sure the framework takes a long-term view of investment and uses a measure of knowledge exchange that genuinely drives businesses to scale up and creates economic growth.

At the moment some university technology transfer offices are using funding models and measures of success that are just too short-term. We should not use a single measure, like the exploitation of intellectual property, simply because it is easier to quantify. Innovate UK will work with the government and Research England to make sure that the new framework looks to the long term, with a variety of measures that genuinely link through to growth and create the right incentives.

In particular, the framework must acknowledge that research that can transform our industries comes in many different forms, not just patents and IP. For instance, a great deal of work is already being done to develop artificial intelligence systems and algorithms that will analyse big datasets, but since you cannot patent an algorithm in the UK, using that as your indicator would be a flawed measure.

The framework will also need to drive knowledge from our universities into established businesses of all sizes to develop new products and services because this is just as important as support for new companies that are starting out.

That is where schemes like knowledge transfer partnerships can help. Run by Innovate UK, the research councils and devolved administrations, these transfer a graduate or more senior researcher into a business for between 12 and 36 months to deliver an innovation project identified by the business. This is a three-way partnership between the business, the university and the academic in which all benefit.

This week we received an additional £30 million from the national productivity investment fund to substantially expand the programme. When the framework is introduced, universities will be able to use schemes like these partnerships to demonstrate how they are commercialising research.

Knowledge transfer from our universities and the commercialisation of university research matters. So long as we get the measures and incentives right, the framework can bring benefits not just to the international reputation of our businesses and universities, but also to the wider economy.

Read the full article at

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Dr Tithira Wimalasena, Senior Fermentation Scientist, Calysta


Dr Tithira Wimalasena, Senior Fermentation Scientist, Calysta

What is your background and current job role?

After graduating with a BSc in Microbiology, I obtained a Masters in Applied Molecular Microbiology from University of Nottingham. Following this I completed a PhD at the same university, understanding the unfolded protein response of Candida albicans which was related to Medical Microbiology.  On completing my PhD, I joined University of Nottingham as a Research Fellow on a brewing project developing novel molecular tools to beverage industry. During this project, I had lot of exposure to applying grants, developing patents and understanding the insights of developing a spin out company. Followed by then I joined a project looking at producing bioethanol using lignocellulosic materials. My role was to develop super tolerant Saccharomyces strains to ferment bioethanol effectively. I also led projects related to strain optimisation i.e., de-constituting and understanding the mode of action of pre-treatment associated inhibitors and toxic end products on the biocatalyst, modified it by using classical mutagenesis tools and screening them using high throughput methods to identify super tolerant yeast strains and their behavior in the fermentation and scaling up process.

I left University to join Dupont to work in the pilot plant as a Fermentation Scientist. This project was managed by Butamax (Joint venture of BP and Dupont) producing isobutanol. During this project, I led fermentation lab managing trouble shooting activities of the pilot plant experiments and focused on process development and scale up studies collaborated with global fermentation team in Dupont USA.

I joined Calysta in 2016 as a Senior Scientist.  My role at Calysta was to manage fermentation activities in the pilot plant based at Teesside UK. This has given me a fantastic opportunity to understand the novel gas fermentation technology.

Currently I am managing all the fermentation activities at Calysta UK. This includes the activities in the Market introduction facilities (pilot plant) as well as managing the small-scale fermentation activities in the lab. One interesting aspect of my job is that I get to work with cross disciplines in the company; one day I work with process technicians to improve the productivity and next day I may be working with process development engineers responsible for up scaling the technology focusing closely on fermentation risk mitigation. Outside my core role, I work with process modelers focusing on statistical data analysis using the data generated from the pilot plant, or quality assurance and business development team in Calysta headquarters based at Menlo Park California, providing technical input and guidance to support to enhance the quality of the final product.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?

We are in the process of developing fully fledged gas fermentation lab which will be linked to state of the art microbiology and analytical facilities. We will be looking at process development experiments related to gas fermentation. Our interests will mainly be focused on process development, fermentation, microbiology and related analytical techniques.

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?

Calysta Ltd is an Industrial Biotechnology company founded in 2012, a global company creating innovative industrial bio products from sustainable sources. Recently it has been nominated as the “3rd Hottest Emerging Companies in the Advanced Bioeconomy” rankings by Biofuel Digest magazine in 2017.

Calysta develops and produces high quality protein for commercial aquaculture and livestock feed. Calysta has established its first Market Introduction Facility (D-loop Pilot scale fermentation facilities) in UK for FeedKind® protein, a new sustainable fish feed ingredient to reduce the aquaculture industry’s use of fishmeal. The facility opened in September 2016 and is located at Wilton centre at Teesside, in northeast England. Calysta has also announced a partnership with Cargill for production of FeedKind Aqua protein in North America and marketing worldwide.

One of the challengers Calysta may face will be scaling up sustainable animal feed innovation to meet the world demand for animal protein production. In addition, there will be increased demand for the protein such as increased amino acid composition, improved digestibility, and animal performance and health. Future research challenges include modified downstream processing to produce value-added products, and improved understanding of factors contributing to nutrient availability and animal health performance.

How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?

We are constantly seeking better ways to conduct our R&D and networking across partners with aligned interests from both academia and industry and as a part of it we have already established close collaborations with some CBM members such as University of Nottingham. With the new R&D facilities on the horizon we will be looking to work on more development projects related to gas fermentation, microbiology and analytical chemistry which are always open for collaboration.

‘Evaluation of UK Involvement with the Research Framework Programme and other European Research and Innovation Programmes’.

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published a report entitled Evaluation of UK Involvement with the Research Framework Programme and other European Research and Innovation Programmes’. The final report, which was originally commissioned by BEIS in 2015, mainly looks at the UK’s involvement in FP7, but also includes some very early conclusions for participation in Horizon 2020 (using data until February 2016). Furthermore, it includes the results of a survey, case studies on FP7 administration and feedback, which UKRO, together with and a number of subscribers, provided in late 2015.

The report concludes that the UK had a dominant presence in FP7, which was reflected in the country’s success rates, participation in proposals and the requested funding rates. It states that ‘The UK performed above expectation relative to its GDP, GERD, GOVERD and its number of FTE researchers – when comparing the proportion of FP7 funding received to the proportion of EU GDP, GERD, GOVERD and FTE researchers.’

In FP7, UK participants took a coordinating role on projects more often than any other country, with UK organisations coordinating 49% of projects with UK participants, compared to 35% for Germany and 37% for France. The report also acknowledges the outstanding success of the UK in the People (now MSCA) and Ideas (ERC in FP7) programmes, with slightly lower participation in the Cooperation programme. UK participation overall was strong for higher education institutions compared to other countries, but lower for industry.

Based on the survey, the report also concludes that FP7 represented a significant funding source for the UK research community and acknowledges that the vast majority of the activities funded would not have been possible without FP7.

The report also mentions the UK’s EU referendum and states the following: ‘The research was commissioned before the UK referendum on 23 June 2016. In this referendum, the UK voted to leave the European Union. The Government has made clear it would welcome agreement to continue to collaborate with European partners on major science, research and technology initiatives. As set out in the future partnership paper,Collaboration on Science and Innovation, published on 6 September 2017, the UK will seek an ambitious Science and Innovation Agreement with the EU.’

Industrial Biotechnology report launched in Sheffield

Industrial Biotechnology report launched in Sheffield

31 October 2017

A new analysis of the current state and future direction of UK Industrial Biotechnology (IB) was launched at the University of Sheffield. The report, Developing a Strategy for Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy in the UK, sets out a series of recommendations designed to make the UK a world leader in IB and create a more sustainable and prosperous economy.

IB is the use of biological resources to manufacture materials, chemicals and energy.  Commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the need to move towards a greener chemicals industry that is less dependent on fossil fuels are just two of the major challenges that IB can help resolve.  At present IB companies employ 14,000 people in the UK, contributing £1.2bn in Gross Value Added to the economy, but it is estimated that the value of the global IB market could reach £360bn by 2025.  To have a sustainable future the UK must take its place amongst the world’s leaders in this growing sector of the economy. 


The IB Landscape report was commissioned by four Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (NIBB) and completed by economics consultants RSM.  The report assesses the importance of IB for the UK economy, provides a critical analysis of IB in the UK relative to competitor countries and identifies the opportunities and threats to the sector to produce evidence-based recommendations designed to strengthen the UK’s IB position. A major recommendation is the need for a credible long-term sector deal to support IB as part of the Industrial Strategy policy. 

Professor Jeff Green, Director of CBMNet, urged policy makers to take action, “To keep pace with international competitors, the government needs to make clear its long-term commitment to industrial biotechnology.  An encouraging signal would be to bring back the Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst fund that invested in translating the knowledge generated by the UK’s academic research base and SMEs into new IB processes.  But rather worryingly, IB was not prominent in the recent Industrial Strategy Green Paper with no acknowledgment of what it is, what it does, or what its future contribution to the UK economy and society might be.”

At the launch, representatives from multinationals (Akzo Nobel, BASF, GSK, AstroZeneca and Unilever), SMEs, academics from 15 universities and civil servants from BEIS met to consider the report’s findings and formulate the actions needed to ensure a bright future for UK IB.  Recognizing the constraints imposed by feedstock availability, a focus on high-value products and a regional approach to modular manufacturing were amongst the recommendations discussed as a stepping stones towards a future sustainable circular economy based on IB. 

Professor Dave Petley, Vice President (Research and Innovation) at the University of Sheffield underlined the role he believes the academic community has to play in the IB sector: “The University of Sheffield has a strong history of and commitment to collaboration. We have many examples of successful collaboration with industry partners such as Unilever, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Siemens, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

“This event has brought together key players in IB who, like the University of Sheffield, are committed to using the Industrial Biotechnology Landscape report to influence policy and future funding allocations relating to bioscience and biotechnology.  Through this commitment to collaborate we will deliver impact, through influencing policy, and making the UK’s Bioeconomy one that plays a significant role in the UK’s economic success.”

Report recommendations:

**You can read the full Industrial Biotechnology (IB) Landscape Report: UK Industrial Biotechnology Framework and Strategy Report here.**

For more information about the “Industrial Biotechnology Landscape Report: UK Industrial Biotechnology Framework and Strategy” report, please contact CBMNet Manager, Dr Jen Vanderhoven (

BBRSC Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has funded 13 unique collaborative Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (BBSRC NIBB) to boost interaction between the academic research base and industry, promoting the translation of research into benefits for the UK. The networks pool skills from academia and business to develop research projects with the potential to overcome major challenges in the industrial biotechnology and bioenergy arena. They also allow new members to come on board with skills that can benefit the group.

The four NIBB who commissioned the report were CBMNet (Lead NIBB), BIOCATNET, P2P, C1Net.


A network to engineer the cell-environment interface to improve process efficiency, the ‘Crossing biological membranes’ Network is led by Professor Jeff Green, University of Sheffield and Professor Gavin Thomas, University of York. Our primary focus is to understand the mechanisms by which substances are transported into, within, and out of microbial cell factories, with the goal of developing enabling technologies that are crucial for the future of almost all cell-based industrial biotechnology applications. We are a vibrant community of over 1250 academics and industrialists, working together to develop environmentally sustainable, economically viable bioprocesses, for the production of bio-based molecules required by society for everyday life.


BIOCATNET is the BBSRC NIBB dedicated to discovery, development and scalable production of biocatalysts for the whole Industrial Biotechnology community. We provide a cross-sector forum with the goals to foster and enhance collaboration; develop skills and expertise; share best practice; define common research priorities; and target funding opportunities in industrial biocatalysis. By bringing together key research expertise from the academic and industrial sectors, along with manufacturers and end-users, BIOCATNET will address key challenges to help shape the future of Industrial Biotechnology in the UK and beyond.


A Network of Integrated Technologies: Plants to Products (P2P) is led by Professor David Leak, University of Bath and Dr Joe Gallagher, Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS). P2P is one of the thirteen BBSRC supported Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (NIBB) and one of two supported by the EPSRC. Our primary focus is integration – of people, technology and expertise – to deliver integrated processes for efficient and economic conversion of plant biomass to products. We are committed to supporting and growing the industrial biotechnology community and maximising the value it delivers.


C1net champions research into the use of “gas-eating” microbes to ferment polluting greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane) from landfill and industry, into useful products e.g. biofuels and plastics. There has been a global surge of interest in studying the biology of organisms able to grow on C1 gases and commercially exploit them as platforms for chemical manufacture. The UK, however, lags disappointingly behind the curve. C1net aims to correct this deficiency by creating a vibrant community of UK scientists using a programme of measures to increase public understanding, recruit and train young scientists and encourage interaction between science and industry.  The aim is to unravel the biological, chemical and process engineering aspects of gas fermentation and steer the translational outputs towards commercial application.


SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: daniela heeg, CHAIN Biotechnology Ltd


Daniela Heeg, Technical Product Manager, CHAIN Biotechnology Ltd

What is your background and current job role?

I obtained a PhD in Molecular Medical Microbiology from the University of Nottingham, where I undertook a project concerned with the spore formation and spore germination of the important human pathogen Clostridium difficile. Following this, I worked at the University of Nottingham as Postdoctoral researcher and in clinical diagnostics at a private company before joining CHAIN Biotechnology Ltd as Technical Product Manager. Here, I am responsible for the development and dissemination of our product range, including commercial tools such as the modular pMTL80000 vector series and the first therapeutic products in our pipeline.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?

Currently, we are using Clostridium spp. as chassis to secrete therapeutic substances for the treatment of inflammatory and infectious bowel diseases. We have produced our first genetically modified strain secreting therapeutic, CHN-1, in volumes to support early in vitro pre-clinical work. We are now investigating in scale-up of this and other strains to improve growth. We are also researching an inducible version of spore production.

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?

As CHAIN identify novel therapeutic targets, methods of secretion for novel peptides in Clostridium will need to be developed. We currently have a collaboration with the University of Nottingham in this area. In addition, because we are using the spores of our strain in formulation, we cannot induce spore formation with any substance that would prevent us from using the resulting spores in human clinical trials and subsequently in medicine. Thus, we cannot induce using common systems such as antibiotic inducible system. We also have the need for a truly tight system, so any system that can be triggered by external natural substances is not ideal for our purpose.

How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?

Other CBMNet members could help us with our research by suggesting and maybe testing systems in the scope of an interaction voucher or more substantial funding. Such projects could focus on identification or secretion of peptides from bacteria or induction of sporulation that would be acceptable for deliberate release of an organism.

Biorefining Potential for Scotland, A new report from Zero Waste Scotland

Biorefining Potential for Scotland, A new report from Zero Waste Scotland

In 2015, Scottish Enterprise published ‘The Biorefinery Roadmap for Scotland’, on behalf of the Scottish Industrial Biotechnology Development Group (SIBDG), which sets out the key actions required to identify the barriers and risks faced by companies and potential investors to enable the more established biorefinery technologies. The Roadmap aims to increase industrial biotechnology turnover to £900 million by 2025.

A key action of this Roadmap was to map the wastes, by-products and agricultural residues that are, or which could be, available as feedstock for a biorefining process. In addition, The Making Things Last strategyii outlines the Scottish Government’s priorities for recovering value from biological waste, including mapping bioresource arisings in Scotland and investigating the potential for local biorefining hubs.

The challenge for this project was therefore to establish the scale of the opportunity for the bioeconomy sector in Scotland, by quantifying and mapping bioresourceiii arisings to understand the scale and shape of a potential bioeconomy market. This report also builds on the outcomes of an earlier Beer Whisky Fish circular economy sector studyiiii which highlighted the need to better understand the volume and geographic arisings of by-products in Scotland. For the first time Scotland’s bioresources have been assessed in such a thorough way and the volume of resources confirms that there is sufficient feedstock to enable Scotland to be confident in developing opportunities for biorefining.

Within the bioeconomy there is demonstrable scope to develop a bio-based industrial sector with the potential to significantly reduce our dependency on fossil-based resources, help meet climate change targets, and lead to sustainable economic growth. In addition, it will also help diversify and grow farmers’ incomes through additional margins by valorising agricultural residues. The Making Things Last strategy brings together many of the policy areas linked to the bioeconomy, however this transition will require a greater cross-sector approach, bringing industry and academia together. Scotland already has a great deal of biorefining expertise including research into brewing and fermentation, the future potential for forestry and marine biomass and synthetic biology.

Building on this foundation this study has shown that biorefineries have significant potential in Scotland with over 27 million tonnes of materials suitable for biorefining every year. Importantly this study has, for the first time, quantified a number of previously unaccounted for or ‘hidden’ resource streams including agricultural residues and byproducts both of which have significant biorefining and economic potential. The data shows a number of rural and coastal areas where bioresources arise in high volumes. This creates the opportunity for decentralised production facilities which can provide new income and employment opportunities in rural areas. Due to the fact that the raw materials arise over large areas, bio-based production favours a decentralised structure.

This report confirms that significant bioresources exist to develop technologies for biorefining to convert sustainable feedstocks into high value chemicals, biofuels and other renewable products for a range of industries. In addition, biorefining could offer significant economic benefits for the agricultural and rural industries in Scotland as well as across the food and drink supply chain. Scotland is well placed to develop biorefinery facilities given the co-ordinated approach and sufficient support from policymakers and funding bodies. Scotland has the enviable position in having world-leading centres of research excellence, a large volume of bioresources and an industrial base suited to the exploitation of the bioeconomy. The development of an industrial biorefining strategy, in alignment with the National Plan for Industrial Biotechnology, is required to encourage collaboration and focus the academic and industrial expertise. Development of a biorefining strategy will lead to a focus on the knowledge and skill gaps and reinforce the existing expertise base in Scotland.

Read the full report here.

Identification and utilization of two important transporters: SgvT1 and SgvT2, for griseoviridin and viridogrisein biosynthesis in Streptomyces griseoviridis

Identification and utilization of two important transporters: SgvT1 and SgvT2, for griseoviridin and viridogrisein biosynthesis in Streptomyces griseoviridis

Griseoviridin (GV) and viridogrisein (VG, also referred as etamycin), both biosynthesized by a distinct 105 kb biosynthetic gene cluster (BGC) in Streptomyces griseoviridis NRRL 2427, are a pair of synergistic streptogramin antibiotics and very important in treating infections of many multi-drug resistant microorganisms. Three transporter genes, sgvT1–T3 have been discovered within the 105 kb GV/VG BGC, but the function of these efflux transporters have not been identified.

In the present study, we have identified the different roles of these three transporters, SgvT1, SgvT2 and SgvT3. SgvT1 is a major facilitator superfamily (MFS) transporter whereas SgvT2 appears to serve as the sole ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter within the GV/VG BGC. Both proteins are necessary for efficient GV/VG biosynthesis although SgvT1 plays an especially critical role by averting undesired intracellular GV/VG accumulation during biosynthesis. SgvT3 is an alternative MFS-based transporter that appears to serve as a compensatory transporter in GV/VG biosynthesis. We also have identified the γ-butyrolactone (GBL) signaling pathway as a central regulator of sgvT1–T3 expression. Above all, overexpression of sgvT1 and sgvT2 enhances transmembrane transport leading to steady production of GV/VG in titers ≈ 3-fold greater than seen for the wild-type producer and without any notable disturbances to GV/VG biosynthetic gene expression or antibiotic control.

Our results shows that SgvT1–T2 are essential and useful in GV/VG biosynthesis and our effort highlight a new and effective strategy by which to better exploit streptogramin-based natural products of which GV and VG are prime examples with clinical potential.

Read the full article here.

IBioIC announces 100th Member

Innovative British biotechnology to add millions to economy

Glasgow,19 October 2017 – The Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre today welcomes its 100th member, in what marks a significant step towards the growth of the UK biotechnology market.

It is estimated that by 2025, the UK industrial biotechnology market will be worth up to £12 billion and with the current rate of innovation and growth; it is easy to see how. Industrial biotechnology is changing the world, transitioning products and processes from being petro chemical-based to bio-based.

Everything we use in our daily lives can be reimagined using IB processes so that we are more sustainable, leading to reduced greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption and waste generation. Examples from IBioIC’s membership include:

•       Prawn shells being used to make environmentally friendly and antimicrobial cling film
•       Timber residues used to make natural food flavourings, including vanilla
•       Methane, a natural gas, converted into high quality protein animal feed
•       Waste bread and potato starch used in medicine manufacturing
•       Bi-products from whiskey manufacturing used to make fuel, feed and even nanoparticles for electronics
•       Genetically modified mosquitoes used to battle Zika virus, Dengue fever and Malaria

Some of the UK’s best-untapped resources for IB are carbon dioxide, agricultural wastes, municipal waste – heading to the landfill, seaweed and timber waste. It is because of these feedstocks and the high-level of academic expertise that the UK, and in particular Scotland, is attracting investment from around the world.

Industrial biotechnology may be a little known industry, but there is clear impact for companies of all sizes. IBioIC’s membership includes 14 startups and spinouts, 42 SMEs and 17 multi-national corporations, as well as government departments and other business consultancies. In keeping with the multi-disciplinary nature of IB, the members include IB expertise from a wide range of industries, from food to pharma to materials. IBioIC supports their members by helping their ideas develop from concept to commercial reality.

100th member – Oxford Biotrans: making natural scents and flavourings from IB

IBioIC recently welcomed Oxford Biotrans as their 100th member to join the likes of GSK, Scottish Water and Ingenza. Oxford Biotrans is a University of Oxford spin-out company supported by over 20 years of research by Dr Luet Lok Wong from the Department of Chemistry. Founded in 2013, the company is working to develop and commercialise enzymatic process technology to yield high-value chemicals from natural sources. Their procedures are environmentally friendly – producing less chemical waste and using less energy than traditional methods.
Their first product, natural-grade nootkatone, is a sesquiterpene, which is the flavour and scent of grapefruit and is used in food, beverage and cosmetic applications (including enhancing in non-citrus flavours). Natural-grade nootkatone is traditionally an expensive ingredient and large quantities of grapefruit are needed to extract commercial amounts of nootkatone – 400,000kg of grapefruit is needed to produce just 1kg of nootkatone. A synthetic nootkatone can be produced through chemical processes, but this requires high temperatures, heavy metals and peroxides, and cannot be classed as natural in the EU.
Oxford Biotrans has developed a process to convert natural valencene; a citrus extract readily obtained from oranges, into natural-grade nootkatone, and is now offering an attractive, secure and environmentally-friendly supply of this in-demand compound. The company has just raised £2.1 million from investment activities, which will enable them to accelerate market entry of further products in the pipeline, building on the performance and capabilities of their innovative platform technology.
Oxford Biotrans has used the support of IBioIC to develop collaborative networks, secure project partners and grant funding and access academic support, hosting an IBioIC PhD student in the organisation. They will also use IBioIC’s scale-up facilities in future to test new ideas and processes for commercialisation.

About IBioIC
IBioIC is a specialist in the Industrial Biotechnology (IB) sector, designed to stimulate the growth of the IB sector in Scotland to £900 million by 2025. The Centre is a connector between industry, academia and government, investing in and facilitating access to expertise, equipment and education in order to grow the industry into a powerhouse of Scotland’s economy.

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About Oxford Biotrans
Oxford Biotrans is a University of Oxford spin-out company working to develop and commercialise enzymatic process technology to yield high-value chemicals.
For more information visit:

CBMNet helps highlight Northern Bioeconomy Powerhouse

CBMNet helps highlight Northern Bioeconomy Powerhouse – North of England generates £91 billion for UK bioeconomy

A government-commissioned report has shown that the north of England generates an annual turnover of £91 billion and employs more than 400,000 people in the regional bioeconomy.

The UK government requested regional science and innovation audits (SIAs) to develop a new approach to regional economic development. The reports aim to help the UK regions analyse their strengths and identify mechanisms to fulfil their potential.

The north of England report, led by the University of York in collaboration with northern universities (Including CBMNet, at The University of Sheffield) and colleges, research institutions, Local Enterprise Partnerships and businesses, showed that the region has the facilities, specialised research and innovation capability and industrial capacity to deliver a world-leading bioeconomy.

The bioeconomy is defined as the production of biomass and the conversion of renewable biological resources into value-added products such as food, bio-based products and bioenergy.

The report reveals that the UK’s bioeconomy, excluding agriculture, is the third-largest in the European Union after Germany and France and supports five million jobs directly and indirectly.

The consortium’s vision is one of an integrated and innovation-driven product, process and service bioeconomy in the north of England, allowing the region to compete in the multi-trillion-pound global market for sustainable food, feed, chemicals, materials, consumer products and energy.

The BBSRC, with support from EPSRC, has committed £18 million to fund thirteen separate collaborative national Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (NIBB), which together include 1125 academic members and 801 company members ranging from micro-SMEs to multinational conglomerates. These multidisciplinary networks drive and fund joint industry-academia collaborations to harness the potential of biological resources for producing and processing materials, biopharmaceuticals, chemicals and energy.

“We at Lucite have always been aware that a key issue for us, as we strive to develop new technology for the sustainable production of methacrylates, is the transport of substrates and products across the membranes of the microbial hosts. The issue was identifying the key expertise with which we could collaborate to solve our product specific problems. CBMNet [NIBB led from the University of Sheffield] has been instrumental in bringing together the UK and European expertise in membrane science.“ Graham Eastham, Lucite International

NIBB leadership, membership, and competitively distributed funding is disproportionately based in the North of England. Nine of the thirteen Networks are led or co-led from universities in the region; 40% of academic members are based in the region, and 27% of company members are from the North of England. Of competitively distributed funding, 30% has been secured by regional institutions.

Professor Koen Lamberts, Vice-Chancellor at the University of York, said: “The north of England has huge capabilities in areas such as agri-science, agri-technology, and industrial biotechnology, with the potential to address some of the UK’s biggest societal challenges.

“The north of England leads the UK in the volume of funded research aimed at increasing innovation in the bioeconomy, which puts the region in a very strong position to deliver a globally competitive industry.”

The report reveals the north of England has particular strengths in chemicals, process industries, and in food and drink.  Food and drink represents around one-third of the regional bioeconomy and chemicals make up one-quarter.

The N8 Research Partnership, a northern university research consortium, has a major interdisciplinary programme in agri-food research across eight universities in the region.

The region holds 38 per cent of the UK’s chemicals industry workforce, 31 per cent of the polymers industry workforce, and 36 per cent of apprenticeships relevant to the bioeconomy. The universities in the north also provide a quarter of the UK science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates.

Business Minister Lord Prior said: “The Science and Innovation Audits we are publishing today highlight the innovative strengths in regions across the UK and the significant growth and investment opportunities they present.

“Together with our record investment of an additional £4.7 billion for research and development to 2020/21, we are working closely with regional businesses and partners to ensure the ambitions set out in these reports are delivered to maintain our status as a science powerhouse.”

See the full report at

CBMNet Early Career Researcher gives talk at Ignite Academy


CBMNet Early Career Researcher gives talk at Ignite Academy

Leonardo Talachia Rosa – Bacterial insight: The faster you chew, the more you eat.

Bacteria are isolated from the environment by a lipid bi layer, and in order to uptake food, they need specific components called membrane transporters. They need a transporter for each compound, just as if we needed a different mouth for every food. Some transporters are more efficient than others, and this talk will be about how I am trying to discover how some very efficient transporters work, and trying to engineer them for a greener future.

On the 21st September, the University of Sheffield presents Magical Worlds: Ignite Academy 2017 6.30pm-9pm, Adelphi Room, Crucible Theatre

+ FREE ENTRY + 18x 5min presentations
What are the modern mysteries, problems and questions that shape the research we do across our university? What are the current small niggles and big challenges that research can help us face?

What is Ignite? Ignite is a geek event that is held in over 100 cities worldwide. At the events, Ignite presenters share their research passions, using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds, making a total of just five minutes. 
What will you learn? 
We cover a broad range of topics from departments across the University. The spirit of Ignite Academy is simply about education, learning, teaching and sharing ideas with the people of Sheffield.
Who is this event for? Each talk is pitched for a public audience so everyone is welcome. Ignite Academy is a chance to hear about new projects, exciting ideas, leading thinking, and up to the minute innovation.

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