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CBMNet awarded ISCF Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst Early Stage Feasibility Projects

CBMNet awarded ISCF Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst Early Stage Feasibility Projects

We are pleased to confirm that UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC)  has agreed to provide a grant of £233,222 to the CBMNet to support Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst: Early Stage Feasibility Projects, provided through Wave 1 of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).

These funds will be used to support 7 CBMNet projects, which will undertake Early Stage Feasibility Projects where researchers engage with an industrial partner to take steps to demonstrate Proof of Concept within the strategic scope of the Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst.

  1. Title: Metabolic Engineering of Yarrowia lipolytica for Co-production of Xylitol and Lipids Fuels using Industrial Waste. PI and Research Organisation: Gary Leeke (Cranfield). Industry Partner: SERE-Tech Innovation Ltd


  1. Title: In silico genome-wide modelling and metabolic engineering of Pseudomonas strains for improved rhamnolipid synthesis. PI and Research Organisation: Claudio Angione (Teeside). Industry Partner: TeeGene Biotech Limited


  1. Title: Detoxification of cyclic monoterpene alcohols by selective esterification. PI and Research Organisation: David Leake (Reading). Industry Partner: Isobionics
  1. Title: Development of novel bacterial strains for production of hydrophobic compounds. PI and Research Organisation: Paul Herron (Strathclyde). Industry Partner: Ingenza


  1. Title: Regulation of methacrylate tolerance in coli. PI and Research Organisation: Ian Kerr (Nottingham). Industry Partner: Lucite International


  1. Title: Membrane selectivity and receptor recognition by chimeric antimicrobial peptides. PI and Research Organisation: Boyan Bonev (Nottingham). Industry Partner: DuPont


  1. Title: Touchy Feely GM Algae. PI and Research Organisation: Mike Allen (Plymouth). Industry Partner: Algenuity



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.


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

Corporate Stakeholder Research report 2016

BBSRC publishes ‘Corporate Stakeholder Research report 2016’

In October 2016 the BBSRC commissioned ComRes to undertake research to gauge stakeholder perceptions of the organisation and measure any change in attitudes since 2014, when an initial wave of benchmarking research was conducted.

The overall aim of this research was twofold: to help BBSRC understand how it is perceived externally, and assess our performance since the 2014 benchmarking research.

Within this, the specific objectives were:

  • Measuring BBSRC success in increasing engagement with key stakeholders over time in delivering key objectives set out in our corporate communications and engagement strategy
  • Giving a clear picture of how key stakeholders currently view their relationships with BBSRC
  • Identifying areas where current relationships can be developed, strengthened and maintained
  • Understanding why key stakeholders want to engage with BBSRC and what deliverables they expect from us
  • Identifying areas where attitudes have shifted and understand how BBSRC activities have affected this
  • Identifying other stakeholders with which BBSRC should be better connected

You can view the results of the research here.

PhDs in Industrial Biotechnology available

Seven fully funded PhD positions for UK/EU students for start in September/October 2016 are available across the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Keele University.

The projects can be focused on Industrial Biotechnology.

These positions are offered on an individual merit basis and are not project restricted. I would be delighted to discuss potential projects with any applicants – please contact Gavin J. Miller ( to discuss potential interest.

Closing date for application: Friday 15th April

CBMNet funded member TeeGene selected for R&D delegation to NZ

TeeGene Biotech to take part in research and development mission in New Zealand to help establish links in agriculture and biotechnology

CBMNet member Teegene Biotech, which is based at the Wilton Centre, has been selected to take part in a week-long international visit sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and based around a schedule put together by the British High Commission in Wellington.

It is hoped the move will help create agriculture, plant and food research connections with New Zealand’s Crown Research Institutes, leading universities and specialist biotech firms.

Following a visit in March 2014, Professor Robin Grimes, the Foreign Office Chief Science Adviser, confirmed the value of both countries as scientific partners for each other and subsequently strengthened UK-NZ links in commercially-orientated R&D.

Dr Steve Thompson, science officer at the High Commission, said: “Over 70 hard collaborations have resulted over the eight years of the programme to date, with commercial benefits accruing for both countries.”

The news follows a strong year for Teegene, in which it announced a number of pioneering projects.

Having developed methods for extracting high-value chemicals from algae, plants and microorganisms, for example, the company can now produce biosurfactants, which act like soap and help emulsify different liquids, from strains of bacteria.

It also launched a research project, funded by CBMNet, to investigate whether plants and greenery on roadside verges that have been subjected to air pollution from exhaust fumes could provide crucial chemicals that could be recycled for use in medical applications.

The business already has a good track record of successful collaboration projects, having used the Belgium-based Biobase Europe Pilot Plant facilities (BBEPP) for the biomanufacturing of biosurfactants last year.

It likewise used Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) innovation funding for algal technology to manufacture value added soil conditioners and fuel substitutes from farming wastewater.

Company director Dr Pattanathu Rahman said: “We are hoping to meet naturally organic and biobased product manufacturers and associated institutions to establish UK-NZ collaborative projects, particularly R&D collaboration in our area of expertise in biological surfactants and emulsifiers using industrial biotechnology.

“Some of the TeeGene’s manufacturing platform needs surplus sunlight to activate the production pathways of bio-vehicles.

“New Zealand’s tropical climatic conditions are suitable to achieve a high yield with low energy consumptions for economic advantage and complementary to TeeGene’s existing R&D platform.”

“It is a prestigious international networking event and will lead to a number of new collaborative opportunities as both countries have common interests to develop their agriculture and biotech sectors.”

Funding Availble: Technology-inspired innovation – biosciences

Funding Availble: Technology-inspired innovation – biosciences

Innovate UK is to invest up to £2 million in technical feasibility studies to stimulate innovation across four enabling technology areas: advanced materials; biosciences; electronics, sensors and photonics; and information and communication technologies (ICT).

The aim of this competition is to ensure that small and micro businesses in the UK are equipped to respond to market opportunities across a range of economic sectors.

We are seeking proposals that will kick-start the delivery of genuinely new products and services, with substantial and scalable commercial potential.

Projects must be led by a small or micro company, working either alone or in collaboration with one other small or micro company.

A Micro Company has less than ten employees and has a turnover of less than 2 Million Euros. Companies could receive up to 70% of their eligible project costs. Projects should last up to 4 months and not exceed total costs of £33,000.

This competition opens on 18 January 2016 and the deadline for applications is at noon on 16 March 2016.

Projects should focus on early-stage technical opportunities. They should entail a significant level of technical risk and require companies to carry out most, if not all, research in-house.

Key dates
Competition opens 18 January 2016
Registration deadline noon 9 March 2016
Deadline for receipt of applications noon 16 March 2016

We want to encourage technologies that enable multiple applications or the development of variety of products across one or more of the following areas.

  • Synthetic biology
  • Gene synthesis and assembly
    • Chassis development and strain engineering
    • ‘Parts’ characterisation and standards
    • Biochemical engineering and modelling
    • De novo functional design and protein engineering
  • Computational systems biology
    • Multilayered in silico systems for replicating and predicting biological
    • Intuitive user experience systems for complex biodata streams
    • Modelling, design and workflow automation systems
  • Characterisation and discovery
    • Research automation and productivity acceleration products and services
    • Scalable point-of-use technologies
    • Multiplexed or minimally invasive assay platforms
  • Bio-based and sustainable solutions
    • Cells, tissues and communities as bio-manufacturing platforms (eg mixed fermentations)
    • Replacement of unsustainable feedstock with bio-based materials
    • Harnessing complex biological communities for industry

Full details here.

CBMNet Business Interaction Vouchers Awarded

We are pleased to announce that we have awarded two new Business Interaction Vouchers.

tuoslogo_key_rgb_locelbius       download logo

Dr Pandhal, The University of Sheffield and Celbius – Acoustical modifications to increase recombinant glycoprotein expression from engineered E. coli cells

​The demand for protein therapeutics is increasing with the human population, which is predicted to top 9 billion by mid-century. In addition, the biopharmaceutical industry landscape is changing as a result of shifting customer demographic (e.g. higher population increases in less developed countries), the rise in potential for personalised medicine (i.e. a move to manufacture smaller volumes and more diverse libraries of drugs) and the increasing availability of drug biosimilars as patents for big blockbuster drugs come to an end. A majority of the complex drugs are currently produced in mammalian cell lines, where rapid advances in cultivation techniques have improved productivity. However, these cell lines are expensive to grow and more difficult to manipulate genetically. This means that expanding the toolbox of simpler, easier-to-control and manipulate production cell lines, for example E. coli, is particularly desirable and timely. E. coli is currently used to make simple drugs like insulin but work is underway to enhance the capability of these cells to modify proteins with the addition of specific sugars (complex drugs) or provide a site specific attachment molecule for in vitro modifications. Unfortunately the process is very inefficient and requires massive improvement in cell line ability as well as process technologies. This project proposal aims to combine the expertise of the industrial partner in ultrasonication methodologies and the PI’s skills in glycoprotein production in bacteria, with the application of ultrasonic frequencies to improve not only growth of E. coli cells but also the transfer of lipid-linked sugars and proteins across internal membranes. Ultimately this could improve the productivity of E. coli cells where a larger proportion of total recombinant proteins have the required sugar modification. A range of ultrasonic frequencies will be tested using a specific E. coli cultivation rig incorporating ultrasonic waves.

Dr Alan Goddard, The University of Lincoln and Green Biologics Ltd – In vitro and in silico models of n-butanol-membrane interactions

For nearly 100 years, Clostridia bacteria have been used to make valuable chemicals including acetone, butanol and ethanol.  Purification of these products can be both difficult and expensive, but can be made easier and cheaper by increasing their concentrations in the fermentation broth.  The problem with this is that the products can be toxic to the bacteria which produce them; any mechanism which provides protection to the bacteria is highly desirable.  It is also largely unknown how the bacteria export the solvents from where they are made inside the cell.

Bacteria are surrounded by a membrane made of phospholipids and one mechanism bacteria use to protect themselves from toxicity is to change the lipid composition of this membrane.  This may well provide a viable approach to protecting cells but is very difficult to do in cells.  Ideally, it would be beneficial to know exactly which changes are protective before modifying the bacteria.  To do this, we will test isolated membranes which separate two liquid chambers to model n-butanol movement across membranes.   In concert with this, we will use computer simulations of membranes to model both the direct interaction of n-butanol with membranes and its movement across them.  This will allow us to establish a system in which we can investigate the protective effect of changing the membrane content.  In the long term, these changes can be applied to living bacteria to improve the production of these valuable biofuels.


Digesting New Elements in Peptide Transport

In mammals, the uptake of diet-derived di- and tri-peptides, as well as pharmaceutically important drug molecules such as antibiotics and anti-viral medications, is mediated by PepT1 and PepT2, members of the conserved proton-dependent oligopeptide transporter (POT) family. The POT family belongs to the major facilitator superfamily (MFS), members of which contain 12 transmembrane (TM) helices that form two domains each containing six TM helices related by a pseudo two-fold symmetry.

Read the full article here

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