SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Pattanathu Rahman, Founding Director at Teegene Biotech Ltd
Dr Pattanathu Rahman, Founding Director at Teegene Biotech Ltd
What is your background and current job role?
I obtained my BSc, MSc, and MPhil Distinctions in Biology followed by a PhD in Microbiology from Bharathiar University (Tamil Nadu, India) in 2000 – studying the role of microbial biosurfactants for oil spill remediation funded by CSIR Senior Research Fellowship. I have been offered a Postdoctoral Fellowship on the ‘Challenges in Biosurfactant fermentation’ at University of Ulster in 2000-2001. In 2001, I took up the US DOE sponsored Research Scientist position at Brookhaven National Laboratory; New York (USA) to work on the mineral-microbe association and their regulation of enzyme catalysed transformations. From 2003-2007, I worked at the ERDF/HEIF Bioremediation programme at Teesside University and took part in DEFRA funded Bio-recycling: Resource recovery and reduction of oily hazardous wastes via biosurfactant washing and bioremediation and EU LIFE 3 programme on Biomass, Remediation, Regeneration (BioReGen): Reusing Brownfield Sites for Renewable Energy Crops. I then took the academic position to lead MSc Biotechnology Course at Teesside University. I coordinated BfB KTN sponsored FROPTOP project (2008): ‘Exploring the biocatalytic pathways of the microbial biosurfactant production from biodiesel industry residual glycerine’ and this work led to the creation of the spin-out company TeeGene Biotech based at the Wilton Centre near Middlesbrough. As a founding director of the company, I am responsible for the business development and operations. Recently, we have secured funding from Commonwealth Scholarship Commission’s Scholarships and appointed researchers to optimise biosurfactant production using bacteria from environmental samples and biosynthesis of nanomaterials using medicinal plants.
What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?
TeeGene has expertise in bioremediation as well as waste management and has commercialised biotechnology based on bioreactors and bio-product development. One of TeeGene’s aims is to supply biotech based solutions for large industries such as, waste management and biosustainable production of industrial platform chemicals and surfactants.
TeeGene Biotech, is part of a consortium of experts and industries that develop biobased technology to capture precious metals. The University of York, along with TeeGene Biotech Ltd and Johnson Matthey will be working on the project ‘Plants as Nanoparticle Producers’ funded through a CBMNet Proof of Concept Grant. Platinum group metals (PGMs) are used in many industrial applications, often as nanoparticles (NPs). PGMs are rare materials, making them highly valuable, but their increasing dispersal in the environment is of growing concern. The metal accumulating ability of plants can be used to capture metals from the environment. These high value products could help satisfy demand for precious metals in industry and medicine. This work will integrate TeeGene’s core technologies and business aspirations with the recovery of high value materials using biobased technologies to create a central enabling technology for metallic waste management. It will pump-prime one of TeeGene’s business models – the development of integrated biobased technology on waste streams. This project will be used to commercialise the technology after feasibility of the large scale precious metal recovery.
Bio-actives from microalgae: Algal biosurfactants still represents a major untapped and unexplored area of research. This area is gaining much attention in relation to potential bioemulsifier properties in food and bio-therapeutic sector. An innovative project by a TeeGene to extract high value chemicals from algae has been given financial backing by HVCfPNet. The BBSRC grant will enable TeeGene Biotech to undertake a project to explore the use of naturally occurring microorganisms, microalgae, in the treatment of industrial waste water as well as their potential as a high value chemical ingredient. The company is also developing links with the National Horizon Centre, which is under development adjacent to Teesside University’s campus in Darlington and Biorenewables Development Centre (BDC) at York.
What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?
1. Commercial feasibility to manufacture biosurfactants in industrial scale could be a challenge
2. Foaming of Biosurfactants during fermentation is one of the key unavoidable challenges
3. Improving the yield rate of pure compounds and enhance functionalities to focus on biopharma and personal care applications
How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?
CBMNet members can contact TeeGene to develop projects on bionanomaterials or biosurfactants. A group of biosurfactants with cytotoxic properties on cancer cell lines are good source to target anticancer treatment. Similarly group of nanomaterials with anticancer property also promising for cancer drug development. Biosurfactants can be used as a stabiliser and transported to target cancer cells using nanoparticles. The molecular and cellular interactions of this study needs to be explored. This will open-up a number of discoveries for cancer treatment. CBMNet members could help us to develop novel metabolic engineering route for biosurfactant production to enhance cell signalling pathways or to explore molecular mechanisms in biosurfactant mediated drug delivery routes.
You can contact Pattanathu at P.Rahman@tees.ac.uk