Category Archives: NEWS

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 https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2017/nov/10/lets-draw-blue-skies-research-out-of-our-universities-and-into-the-economy

‘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.’

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

Background
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.

Results
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.

Conclusions
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.

For more information visit: http://ibioic.com/
Follow us on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/IBioIC

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: http://oxfordbiotrans.com/

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 https://www.york.ac.uk/research/the-bioeconomy-in-the-north-of-england-sia/

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.

https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ris/ecr/events/igniteacademy2017


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.

Pseudomonas stutzeri as an alternative host for membrane proteins

Pseudomonas stutzeri as an alternative host for membrane proteins

Background

Studies on membrane proteins are often hampered by insufficient yields of the protein of interest. Several prokaryotic hosts have been tested for their applicability as production platform but still Escherichia coli by far is the one most commonly used. Nevertheless, it has been demonstrated that in some cases hosts other than E. coli are more appropriate for certain target proteins.

Results

Here we have developed an expression system for the heterologous production of membrane proteins using a single plasmid-based approach. The gammaproteobacterium Pseudomonas stutzeri was employed as a new production host. We investigated several basic microbiological features crucial for its handling in the laboratory. The organism belonging to bio-safety level one is a close relative of the human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosaPseudomonas stutzeri is comparable to E. coli regarding its growth and cultivation conditions. Several effective antibiotics were identified and a protocol for plasmid transformation was established. We present a workflow including cloning of the target proteins, small-scale screening for the best production conditions and finally large-scale production in the milligram range. The GFP folding assay was used for the rapid analysis of protein folding states. In summary, out of 36 heterologous target proteins, 20 were produced at high yields. Additionally, eight transporters derived from P. aeruginosa could be obtained with high yields. Upscaling of protein production and purification of a Gluconate:H+ Symporter (GntP) family transporter (STM2913) from Salmonella enterica to high purity was demonstrated.

Conclusions

Pseudomonas stutzeri is an alternative production host for membrane proteins with success rates comparable to E. coli. However, some proteins were produced with high yields in P. stutzeri but not in E. coliand vice versa. Therefore, P. stutzeri extends the spectrum of useful production hosts for membrane proteins and increases the success rate for highly produced proteins. Using the new pL2020 vector no additional cloning is required to test both hosts in parallel.

Read the full here. 

Government Publishes paper on ‘Collaboration on science and innovation: A FUTURE PARTNERSHIP PAPER’

Government Publishes paper on ‘Collaboration on science and innovation: A FUTURE PARTNERSHIP PAPER’

The United Kingdom wants to build a new, deep and special partnership with the European Union. This paper is part of a series setting out key issues which form part of the Government’s vision for that partnership, and which will explore how the UK and the EU, working together, can make this a reality.

Each paper will reflect the engagement the Government has sought from external parties with expertise in these policy areas, and will draw on the very extensive work undertaken across Government since last year’s referendum. Taken together, these papers are an essential step towards building a new partnership to promote our shared interests and values.

Read the paper here.

CBMNet awarded – Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst Seeding Funding


CBMNet awarded Industrial Strategy Challenge Funding

We are pleased to announce that CBMNet has been awarded £150,000 from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund in the form of an Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst Seeding Award.


 

£100,000 of this has just been awarded to Dr Alan Goddard, Aston University, in the form of a CBMNet FLAGSHIP award – Consolidation, Integration and Critical Mass Building- Optimizing membrane function in the Clostridial ABE process. This project involves collaboration between Dr Goddard, Dr Robert Fagan (University of Sheffield), Professor Gavin Thomas (University of York), Dr Peter Chivers (Durham University) and Green Biologics Limited.

The overall objective is to consolidate GBL-CBMNet interactions facilitated through five CBMNet Business Interaction Vouchers, one academic-industrial exchange and one Proof-of-Concept award, along with a Metals In Biology Business Interaction Voucher, to obtain a more holistic picture of the role of membrane dysfunction in restricting n-butanol yields.  The project will synergise the independent research of four PIs, who have not previously worked together, and GBL to build critical mass and generate new data to underpin substantial funding applications in the near future e.g. BBSRC-LINK, IPA, and Catalyst-type projects.  GBL achieved a significant milestone in 2016 by commissioning the first new ABE plant in the US since 1938.  This success has been achieved despite limited understanding of the physiology of Clostridia used in the process, especially the cell membrane that is critical for the stability and robustness of the strain in industrial fermentations, in particular nutrient uptake and metabolite efflux. This project will contribute to fundamental understanding of the membrane and identify gene targets for performance improvements.

Over the past few years, GBL have collaborated with each of the academic partners to developing a better understanding of the solventogenic Clostridia in a number of important areas.  GBL have recently opened their first large scale n-butanol plant, Central Minnesota Renewables in the US and have patented a highly efficient proprietary genome editing technology. By combining the academic expertise with GBLs technology, this project will provide novel routes for strain development that can impact on a number of process parameters. For example, higher butanol concentrations in the fermentation may reduce the likelihood of contamination, lead to a more efficient cell separation process, and reduce the significant costs associated with distillation, as well as improve the water balance of the plant (which has an environmental impact).  By understanding the butanol stress response at a number of levels (membrane lipids, proteins, transporters, metalloenzymes), strain improvement strategies can be better targeted.


             

£25,000 has been awarded to Dr Hoiczyk,  University of Sheffield, and GlycoMar, for their project ‘Use of Membrane complexes for the production of microalgal polysaccharides’. 

The utilisation of microalgae for production of high value chemicals has seen major advances in the last decade. A key limitation is the yield of target products, which can restrict their commercial viability. This is particularly the case with exopolysaccharides (EPS), which are produced by many microalgae and represent a large biochemically diverse resource. GlycoMar Ltd has developed pilot scale production of a microalgal EPS, which has been patented for use in healthcare and skin care. Although methods for the production of the EPS exist, increased yield would greatly improve its industrial potential. The EPS appears to be secreted through the decapore apparatus in the cell’s envelope although its precise role in synthesis, maturation, and secretion are currently unclear. The proposed project aims to isolate and purify the membrane pore complex with the goal to identify its protein components. Our working hypothesis is that the complex multi-layered decapore complex is more than a simple secretion portal and is crucial for the synthesis, maturation, and derivatisation of the exported polymer. Therefore, we expect that once the membrane protein components of the decapore are known, future work could address the deletion and/or overexpression of genes coding for these individual components to influence polymer production. This strategy should provide the basis for the identification of overproducing strains that would open up the route for larger-scale application of the identified EPS product.

The outcomes of the project have commercial potential, in terms of the application of the product, but also potentially as a platform technology utilising membrane pore complexes as production systems for microbial polysaccharides. This has the capacity to open the production and utilisation of a very wide range of polysaccharide products, which are currently limited by yield, culturing or handling issues.


  

£25,000 has been awarded to Dr Vincent Postis, Leeds Beckett University, and English Spirit Distillery, for their project ‘Bioenergy production from biorefineries waste using super yeasts’.

Due to the constant increase in energy prices, demand for cheap/renewable energy has escalated. The bioethanol sugarcane raffineries generates large amounts of wastes: bagasse (solid) and vinasse (liquid). For every litre of distilled ethanol, 10-15L of vinasse, are generated. While bagasse is used as carburent in electric generators, vinasse is disposed in agricultural fields or at sea leading to major environmental issues.

Vinasse main component is glycerol. Glycerol is also accumulated as a by-product in diverse types of biorefineries. Therefore such by products can be recycled at low costs for fermentation processes by yeast.

To reduce this environmental negative impact, this project therefore proposes to generate yeasts which will be able to transform this industrial waste into a green biofuel. Our aim is then to select/generate yeast as efficient ‘’cell factories’’ capable of converting glycerol-based products, such as vinasse, into large amounts of added-value products, namely free fatty-acids/neutral-lipids. Those can then be converted in biofuel of second generation or used for the anti-foam agents production.

Due to the accumulation of vinasse as a by-product in diverse types of biorefineries, this strategy would emerge as instrumental and cost-effective for the yeast- based fermentation industries. In addition,  it will also reduce the severe environmental impact of bioethanol sugarcane raffineries. In conclusion, yeast fermentation of vinasse (in this case) besides contributing to the recycling of waste, will also reduce the toxicity of this by-product.

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