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.