SPOTLIGHT ON INDUSTRY: Reuben Carr, Head of Chemical Biology, INGENZA
Dr Reuben Carr, Head of Chemical Biology at Ingenza
What is your background and current job role?
My undergraduate training was carried out at University of Southampton where I graduated with double first class honours in Chemistry and Biochemistry. Following this I completed a PhD with Professor Nick Turner at the University of Edinburgh, developing novel biocatalytic processes to develop efficient and novel manufacturing routes for the preparation of pharmaceutical (chiral amine) intermediates.
Ingenza was spun out of the School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh, initially based on commercially exploiting the technological bioprocesses I worked on during my PhD. On completing my PhD I joined Ingenza as senior scientist providing key technical expertise of biocatalytic processes learnt during my studies and applied this into an industrial setting. During this period I was instrumental as part of the team that successfully tech transferred cost effective enzymatic bioprocesses developed at Ingenza with manufacturing partners around the globe.
As with any growing company, Ingenza has grown and adapted from where it began, today Ingenza is a lead provider of synthetic biology services to the Industrial Biotechnology (IB) sector and my current job title is Head of Chemical Biology. I have responsibilities and oversight at the technological interface of biology and chemistry disciplines within the scientific services that Ingenza provides to its clients and customers. I project manage teams of scientists and I lead the delivery of workplan objectives to fulfil customer expectations for IB processes at Ingenza. I have played in a key part in forging long standing relationships and contracts with major end user clients wishing to develop tomorrow’s sustainable bioprocesses using the extensive knowledge base and scientific capabilities Ingenza provides to the IB sector.
What Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy related project is currently being undertaken by your organisation?
At Ingenza we have a number of IBBE projects under development. These projects encompass biofuels, wherein we engineer yeasts to maximise efficiencies and cost effectiveness for ethanol production. We also undertake several materials and chemicals related projects, where existing market facing customers are seeking either chemical identical or new functionality from their respective products. We are increasingly finding needs in the conventional chemical industries seeking innovative ways to improve their manufacturing routes particularly those that can lessen the reliance of petrochemical feedstocks as raw materials. Bioprocessing and fermentation routes offer a new perspective and opportunity to deliver this need, by way of example Ingenza is partnered with companies such as Lucite International and Invista to produce biobased methacrylate and nylon intermediates respectively.
What do you think the challenges related to this project are in the next 1-5 years?
Despite the significant advances in the fields of biotechnology (i.e. proteo-, gene-, transcript-metabol-‘omics, DNA synthesis, DNA assembly, microbial engineering, etc…) there are still barriers that prevent uptake and widespread deployment of biobased manufacturing solutions in UK industry and further afield. Gaps in knowledge of enzymatic specificities and ability to rapidly redesign function to meet an industrial requirement are lacking. This limits the synthetic biology tools to act and deploy catalytic cascades for assembly of novel fermentative pathways to output industrial chemicals. In addition to this the necessary export machinery to transfer the chemical from inside to outside the cell are needed to achieve high product titres in fermentations to meet commercially competitive efficiencies of space-time-yield production for biobased products. How do we identify cellular transporters for any given chemical pathway product? If transporting function is unknown should we engineer a progenitor wild type transporter or prospect for function using wildtype ‘omics datasets?
How can other CBMNet members help you and your organisation with your research?
CBMNet has an important role to play in identifying and locating effective transporters that can readily and easily transferred into heterologous microbial hosts to improve IB production efficiencies. Despite efforts to build efficient metabolic flux to industrial products within a microbial host, if the exporting machinery is absent or lacking the industrial process will not become realised and commercial exploitation will ultimately fail. Ingenza’s participation in CBMNet is to discover and learn the tools that allow us to rapidly identify suitable cellular transporters. How do we locate a suitable transporter for any given chemical target product? How do we benchmark and assay any given transporter in its efficiency as product exporter so we can be confident it fulfils competitive space-time-yield requirements for an economic IB process?
You can contact Reuben at firstname.lastname@example.org