SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Tosin Doherty, Senior Scientist, Industrial Biotechnolgy and Biorefining, CPI

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Tosin Doherty, Senior Scientist, Industrial Biotechnolgy and Biorefining, CPI

What is your background and current job role?

After graduating with a BSc in Biochemistry in Nigeria, I obtained a Masters in Biotechnology from UMIST. Following this I completed a PhD with Professor Gill Stephens at the University of Manchester, exploring and characterising whole-cell biocatalytic activity from a thermophilic culture collection (made available by Green Biologics Limited) for amine production.  On completing my PhD, I joined ReBio Technologies Limited (formerly TMO Renewables Limited) as a Research Scientist working on process development for the production of biofuels investigating cost effective pre-treatments, enzyme hydrolysis and fermentations of various lignocellulosic waste feedstocks.  I also led projects related to strain optimisation i.e., de-constituting and understanding the mode of action of pre-treatment associated inhibitors and toxic end products, and using classical mutagenesis tools and screens to develop and test wild type and engineered bacteria and yeast strains.

I joined CPI in 2014 as a Senior Scientist in the Industrial Biotechnology and Biorefining (IBB) platform.  My role in the lab is quite diverse: understanding and optimising biochemical processes of our clients and collaborators, working on topics within White Biotechnology through statistical methodologies. Another element of the job involves characterising these bioprocesses under predicted end-use stress conditions in scale-down to highlight de-risking studies required at the strain engineering stage as well as determining correlation patterns of operating and environmental parameters on cell physiology. Outside the lab, I work with the Business Development Team in the IBB unit in providing expert technical input and guidance to support the evaluation of commercial opportunities and the development of public/private projects and consortia.

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

The Industrial Biotechnology and Biorefining technology platform within CPI aims to bridge the gap between early stage concepts and scalable commercial processes related to IBBE. To this end, we have a number of on-going collaborative projects in which we are helping to de-risk process development and these include the :

  • Evaluation of quiescent cell technology (Q-Cells) under process relevant conditions by monitoring the production of 3-hydroxybutyrate, a chiral molecule which is a building block for biodegradable polymers (bioplastics),
  • Development of the production process for FeedKind™ protein, a new fish feed ingredient via gas fermentation,
  • Proof of concept evaluation of D-lactic acid production, for the manufacture of bio based products such as high performance bioplastics, by fermentation using second generation waste derived feedstocks,
  • Process development for the production of bio-based chemicals from lignin at lab scale suitable for industrial testing,
  • Feasibility study of succinic acid production from waste glycerol by fermentation

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

Due to the nature of CPI’s business, the varied number of IBBE-related projects we are involved in often means that we handle a diversity of microorganisms for development into commercial/ large scale processes.  In the scale-down evaluations of microbial product toxicity, one of the challenges has often been to determine the effectiveness of comparative growth screening studies of WT and intermediate strains when the final production strain(s) is still being developed.  These screening studies involve monitoring the growth of strains in the presence of the product or intermediate of interest under operating and environmental parameters.  We know this is a useful strategy for assessing microbial tolerance/ growth in the presence of feedstock inhibitors naturally present outside the cell; however it is still unclear whether this is effective for screening strains with the improved ability to export desired products produced within cells into the external environment.  Genome-wide and transcriptomics analyses are useful alternatives and complementing technologies, however some of the industrially relevant chasis/ strains evaluated have un-characterised membrane systems unlike those published in the literature (for E. coli or Pseudomonas spp) and the high costs often associated with techniques such as RNA sequencing often makes it non-viable in collaborative projects with a short life-span and limited funds.

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

Collaboratative R&D in understanding and elucidating mechanisms of microbial tolerance to biosynthesied chemicals and products in different industrially relevant host strains and development of ‘other’ phenotypic methods that can be used in screening for tolerance to target products.

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