SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Doug Cossar, Research Manager of Biotechnology, Croda

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Doug Cossar, Research Manager of Biotechnology, Croda

What is your background and current job role?
I obtained my BSc in Microbiology from the University of Dundee in 1978, followed by a PhD from Herriot-Watt – studying the physiology of a 4 member microbial community growing on benzoate. I returned to Dundee Department of Biological Sciences to do a post-doctoral fellowship on enzyme control in cyanobacteria. In 1985 I took up a post at the Universite de Fribourg in Switzerland to work on expression of elements of the cellulase complex in a thermophilic fungus. From 1985 to 1991 I worked at the Centre for Applied Microbiology Research at Porton Down on aspects of microbial physiology, from behaviour of GMM’s to extreme thermophiles, with an occasional foray into biosensor development. I then took a position in process development for a biopharmaceutical start-up in Toronto, Canada (Cangene Corp) where I remained for 15 years – working through all aspects of process development (seed bank to finished product) including validation for cGMP manufacturing. Following 4 years at the Structural Genomics Consortium in Toronto (high throughput cloning and protein structural biology) I took up my present position at Croda Europe Ltd, to manage the Biotechnology Research Group in Widnes. My role is to develop route to manufacture for biotechnology-derived speciality chemicals for delivery across an array of market sectors, from Health Care (eg excipients for drug formulation or speciality lipids) to the Oil Field (surface-active materials). In this position, I am developing a network of collaborators to bring academic research into Industrial Biotechnology.

What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?
Croda is a relative newcomer to IB – essentially developing a product pipeline and commissioning a manufacturing capability over the past 6 years. Some of the projects being developed include biosurfactants, speciality natural products, and biopolymers. This work is largely underpinned by significant screening collaborations to identify products of potential interest.

What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?
Product yield is the most significant challenge. Microbes typically produce only the minimum product required for their needs. In one sense, this is to our advantage since it tends to have evolved highly efficient materials and to foster multi-functionality – both of which are identified key trends in the speciality chemicals industry.

How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?
The biological membrane presents multiple challenges for a company such as Croda. In some cases, we would prefer that the product is exported to the medium where it can accumulate at much higher levels (total, rather than actual concentration) and thus give enhanced yield. In this scenario, we would be looking for exporters with a particular, or an enhanced, activity. We should also not neglect substrate uptake – both for product-related precursors (which may be non-natural) and nutrient (especially to add capacity to utilise waste stream materials or to bias metabolic flux to desirable pathways). In a third situation, IB products often present biologically relevant activity – such as anti-microbial, or anti-oxidant. Here, the concerns are about understanding how these products interact with biological membranes – whether in a positive (ie traversing the membrane to be functional inside the cell) or a negative (disrupting membranes with adverse effect on cell function) mode. To date, I have found CBMNet to be a highly attractive community with broad expertise in membrane biology and we have developed several interesting and useful collaborations through Business Interaction Vouchers and Proof of Concept applications.

You can contact Doug at Douglas.Cossar@croda.com

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