Category Archives: NEWS

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.

Information Days on 2018-2020 Horizon 2020 Calls for Proposals

Information Days on 2018-2020 Horizon 2020 Calls for Proposals

The European Commission will organise a number of information days in Brussels on the upcoming 2018-2020 calls for proposals in the last Work Programme of Horizon 2020 (to be published in October). These events will provide information on the content of the calls and will often be combined with dedicated brokerage events to support prospective applicants with finding partners for projects. The following events are planned in the coming months

Furthermore, a series of national events is also planned by Innovate UK and the Enterprise Europe Network. A list of planned and confirmed events can be found on the Innovate Knowledge Transfer Network’s website.

Synthetic Biology Start-up company survey results

Synthetic Biology Start-up company survey results

A survey of synthetic biology company start-ups in the UK is published today by SynbiCITE, the UK’s national centre for the commercialisation of synthetic biology. The study reveals a vibrant ecosystem sustaining a thriving and rapidly growing sector of the bioeconomy.

Highlighting sources of innovation and entrepreneurship, and exploring R&D, technology transfer, investment and growth, the survey covers UK starts-ups between 2000 and 2016. A close look at 146 synthetic biology companies shows that the number of start-ups has doubled every five years during the survey period. Looking ahead, it seems likely that with the right support, the UK synthetic biology ecosystem will be able to model itself on the self-sustaining clusters found in the US in Silicon Valley, CA, and Cambridge, MA.

“Confirming the arrival of a new innovation ecosystem demands evidence: proof that variables ranging from investment, pipeline infrastructure, to talent and education are established and stable”, said Dr. Stephen Chambers, CEO, SynbiCITE. “We believe the industry has reached a critical mass of companies, showing a healthy churn of attrition and creation. Roughly 76% of all the start-ups founded in the survey period are still active and with the continuation of an effective national strategy in the future, this ecosystem will undoubtedly thrive, creating jobs and wealth while sustaining the UK’s leading role in the field.”

Professor Richard Kitney, Co-Director, SynbiCITE commented: “As you’d expect of an industrial sector at a relatively early stage, synthetic biology in the UK will continue to require public as well as private investment. This will be essential to translate today’s research into the exciting industrial products of the future that promise to make such a positive difference to our world in health, energy, materials and the environment.”

“Patience will be crucial,” added Professor Paul Freemont, Co-Director, SynbiCITE, “the UK government has shown great support for synthetic biology, investing £300m in between 2009-2016. We have no doubt this industry has a bright future, and look forward to expanding our work with world leaders in synthetic biology in the USA and Asia for example where so much exciting work is being done”.

Take a look at the survey UK Synthetic Biology Start-up Survey 2017

JRC Bioeconomy Knowledge Centre Launched

​The European Commission has launched a new Joint Research Centre (JRC) Bioeconomy Knowledge Centre (BKC). The BKC is the fourth Knowledge Centre to be launched by the JRC in recent years and aims to bring information and data from a wide variety of sources together in one place, in an open format. In doing so, the BKC aims to help provide a more coherent picture of knowledge on the bioeconomy across Europe, as well as identify gaps and bring information closer to the general public and policy makers. Following on from the work of the JRC Bioeconomy Observatory, it is hoped that the BKC will play a key role in the development of EU policies in the short, medium and long term.

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Keith Thomas, Brewlab Limited

Keith Thomas, Brewlab Limited

What is your background and current job role?

Brewlab is a leading provider of training and analysis services for the international brewing industry, based in purpose built premises on the banks of the river Wear in Sunderland. I am currently director of Brewlab Ltd, responsible for company developments and project management.  I am also a senior lecture in Microbiology at the University of Sunderland teaching undergraduate, MSc and PhD students in microbiology, biotechnology and food sciences.  My background in food and beverage production with specialisms in brewing, yeast physiology for food applications and developing novel raw materials.

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

We have three major projects currently ongoing:

  1. Developing uses for brewing by-products with a focus on bioremediation and reintroduction into food products.
  2. Assessment of historic barley varieties for application to contemporary brewing.
  3. Matching of yeast strains to beverage characteristics.

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

  1. Molecular biology techniques to identify relevant microorganisms and genes which may assist bioremediation and food flavouring.
  2. Bulk scale trials.
  3. Compiling the range of flavours possible into a palatable beverage.

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

Collaborations to provide specialist input.

You can contact Keith at keith@brewlab.co.uk

SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Charles Bavington, GlycoMar

Charles Bavington, GlycoMar

What is your background and current job role?

I am the founder of GlycoMar and a biochemist with over 15 years experience in marine biotechnology. I graduated of the University of Edinburgh and then completed my PhD at the same university, studying proteoglycan metabolism in cartilage. This was followed by postdoctoral research at Dunstaffnage marine lab studying invertebrate glycans and cell adhesion. Subsequently I worked for Integrin Advanced Biosystems Ltd, a marine biotechnology and testing company, holding the positions of Operations Manager and Research & Development Manager. My commercial interests are in entrepeneurship and development of effective life science innovation business models. My scientific interest is in glycobiology and its role in cell-cell interactions.

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

GlycoMar is a biotechnology company discovering and developing products for the healthcare and personal care markets. The company, founded in 2005, has an established discovery platform technology based on glycobiology products, which generates valuable intellectual property. The company evaluates the functional properties of its novel glycobiology products to identify the best candidates for development and the best market application, which include pharmaceutical, consumer healthcare, cosmetic and nutraceutical.

GlycoMar is developing novel consumer healthcare products addressing inflammatory disorders such as eczema and rhinitis, and pharmaceutical products that address unmet clinical needs in the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease. The company is developing cosmetic ingredients for the skincare market and nutraceutical ingredients for the supplements and functional food markets. Our development programme is being carried out both in house and with commercial partners.

GlycoMar seeks to develop its discoveries to generate value through out licensing. The value of GlycoMar’s technology has been demonstrated through early stage Licensing and Collaboration deals.

We have developed and marketed a novel polysaccharide product from the marine microalga Prasinococcus capsulatus. The product is used in cosmetic products, healthcare products, and is being developed as a sugar replacement for use in confectionary. We continue to develop new polysaccharides for healthcare application. We are working on microalgae, cyanobacteria, and macroalgae products. Our covers all aspects of discovery and development of novel polysaccharides.

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

The biggest challenges we face are associated with product yield and production scale-up.

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

Increase yield by manipulation of transport processes involved in growth of photosynthetic organisms and production of polysaccharide products.

You can contact Charles at Charlie@glycomar.com.

Biosynthesis of the antibiotic nonribosomal peptide penicillin in baker’s yeast

Biosynthesis of the antibiotic nonribosomal peptide penicillin in baker’s yeast

Fungi are a valuable source of enzymatic diversity and therapeutic natural products including antibiotics. Here we engineer the baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to produce and secrete the antibiotic penicillin, a beta-lactam nonribosomal peptide, by taking genes from a filamentous fungus and directing their efficient expression and subcellular localization. Using synthetic biology tools combined with long-read DNA sequencing, we optimize productivity by 50-fold to produce bioactive yields that allow spent S. cerevisiae growth media to have antibacterial action against Streptococcus bacteria. This work demonstrates that S. cerevisiae can be engineered to perform the complex biosynthesis of multicellular fungi, opening up the possibility of using yeast to accelerate rational engineering of nonribosomal peptide antibiotics.

Read the full article here.

Whole-cell biocatalysts by design

Whole-cell biocatalysts by design

Whole-cell biocatalysts provide unique advantages and have been widely used for the efficient biosynthesis of value-added fine and bulk chemicals, as well as pharmaceutically active ingredients. What is more, advances in synthetic biology and metabolic engineering, together with the rapid development of molecular genetic tools, have brought about a renaissance of whole-cell biocatalysis. These rapid advancements mean that whole-cell biocatalysts can increasingly be rationally designed. Genes of heterologous enzymes or synthetic pathways are increasingly being introduced into microbial hosts, and depending on the complexity of the synthetic pathway or the target products, they can enable the production of value-added chemicals from cheap feedstock. Metabolic engineering and synthetic biology efforts aimed at optimizing the existing microbial cell factories concentrate on improving heterologous pathway flux, precursor supply, and cofactor balance, as well as other aspects of cellular metabolism, to enhance the efficiency of biocatalysts. In the present review, we take a critical look at recent developments in whole-cell biocatalysis, with an emphasis on strategies applied to designing and optimizing the organisms that are increasingly modified for efficient production of chemicals.

Read the full article here.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT GENE TECH: CBMNet Management Board Member Prof Susan Molyneux Hodgson

 

CBMNet Management Board Member Professor Susan Molyneux Hodgson spoke at the Hay Litery festival last night in the session ‘We Need to talk about Gene Tech’.

Why does public debate and policy treat the application of genetic technology differently when we are discussing medicine and food? Why is our concept of what is ‘natural’ so controversial and the idea of GM food so alarming? Scientists and sociologists come together with Daniel Davis to discuss what’s being ventured and how it is perceived.

 

« Older Entries