Tag Archives: Nottingham

Future Biomanufacturing Research Hub at the University of Manchester

In February 2019, EPSRC announced a £30 million investment in three new Manufacturing Research Hubs, including the Future Biomanufacturing Research Hub (FBRH). The FBRH will be led by Professor Nigel Scrutton and based at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB), with ‘spokes’ at Imperial, UCL, Nottingham, the UK Catalysis Hub, IBioIC and CPI. Read more

13 New CBMNet Projects Funded

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13 New CBMNet Projects Funded

We are pleased to announce that we have recently funded 13 new projects in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy. 

Proof-of-Concept Projects

  • Dr Neil Dixon, University of Manchester, CPI and Oxford Biotrans – Identification of Membrane Transporters of Lignin monomers
  • Professor David James, University of Sheffield and UCB Pharma – Engineering Exosome Production by CHO Cells
  • Professor Doug Kell, University of Manchester and Croda – A potent synthetic biology strategy for increasing transporter-mediated terpenoid efflux from E. coli

Business Interaction Vouchers

  • Dr Mark Shepherd, University of Kent and FujiFilm – Engineering E. coli for enhanced production of antibody fragments
  • Dr Mark Shepherd, University of Kent and FujiFilm – Lowering the disulphide load in the periplasm of E. coli cell factories
  • Dr Teuta Pilizota, University of Edinburgh and FujiFilm – Replacing osmotic downshocks with upshocks for periplasmic protein extraction

Vacation scholarships

  • Dr Frans Maathuis, University of York – The role of HMA and COPT proteins in trans membrane movement of palladium 
  • Professor Colin Robinson, University of Kent – An enhanced platform for translocation of biotherapeutics to the E. coli periplasm
  • Dr Alan Goddard, University of Lincoln – Modelling of multifactorial solvent stress on membranes
  • Dr Wuge Briscoe, University of Bristol – Bacterial mimicking liposomes
  • Dr Boyan Bonev, University of Nottingham – Membrane stability models in the presence of methacrylate esters
  • Dr Sam Miller, University of Aberdeen – Investigating the role of periplasmic and transmembrane domains of mechanosensitive channels in E.coli membrane integrity
  • Dr Claudio Avignone-Rossa, University of Surrey – Construction of glucose transporter mutants of Clostridium beijerinckii

You can view all our projects funded to date here and read our success stories here.

CBMNET secures major new industrial biotechnology funding

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The chemicals industry is a vital component of the world economy that is faced by the need to provide innovative and sustainable solutions to provide the resources required for a growing global population. One approach to a more sustainable chemicals industry is the use of microbial cell factories to produce key chemicals from sustainable feedstocks. However, a major barrier to commercial cell-factory-based chemical production is poor product yield. Often this is caused by intoxication of the cells resulting in sub-optimal performance. To address this problem, a £3 million research project (DeTox) to improve the sustainable production of chemicals and biofuels by microbes has been awarded by the Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst fund to a consortium of scientists led by the Sheffield-based Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Crossing Biological Membranes Network in Industrial Biotechnology (CBMNet). Professors Jeffrey Green and David Kelly along with Dr Susan Molyneux-Hodgson at the University of Sheffield are working with colleagues at the Universities of York, Nottingham and Cambridge and five companies (Green Biologics, ReBio, Lucite, CPI and Ingenza), to overcome poor product yields by focussing on how the properties of the bacterial cell membrane can be modified to create more robust cell factories.

DeTox is led by the CBMNet co-director Dr Gavin Thomas (University of York) and has benefited from funding from a CBMNet Business Interaction Voucher (BIV) which generated some of the preliminary data underpinning the DeTox project.

“The BIV was very successful from our point of view as we trialled a new method in our lab, which we took right through to the point where we generated novel data. This then went straight into a grant application.”

Dr Gavin Thomas

“The DeTox project is an exciting opportunity to improve the efficiency of cell-based chemical production that emerged from the creative discussions within the CBMNet management board and our industrial partners.”

Professor Jeffrey Green, CBMNet director

Importantly, the project includes a sociological study of collaborative research processes to develop a better understanding of ‘responsible innovation’.

“The approach of integrating sociological study into a technical scientific project is becoming more common, and it’s an approach that has already been shown to add enormous value to research. We’re very much looking forward to working alongside the scientists and engineers in this important research.”

Dr Molyneux-Hodgson, an expert in the social aspects of synthetic biology in the Department of Sociological Studies

“Green Biologics are looking forward to working with the academic community over the next five years. It is with great pleasure that the wider UK academic community has recognised Clostridia as an important industrial microbe and hopefully this will lead to a dynamic and vibrant community.”

Dr Preben Krabben, Head of Innovation at Green Biologics

DeTox is only one of the many achievements of CBMNet. So far it has funded seven Proof-of-Concept grants along with seven Vacation Scholarships (worth over £175,000) and five Business Interaction Vouchers (worth over £50,000). Many of these awards have focused on supporting students and early career researchers to ensure that the biotechnology expertise continues to grow.

“In our first year we have begun to establish an active and engaged community of industrialists and academics. We now need to build on these foundations and promote the importance of an appreciation of the impact that membrane biology can have on industrial biotechnology processes through our project funding streams and meetings.”

Professor Jeffrey Green

CBMNet is always seeking to further strengthen its links with industry so that the expert knowledge of the UK ‘membrane research’ community is translated into improved biotechnological processes. As the network continues to expand, the sum of its collective knowledge will be a significant resource for the UK biotechnology industry to draw upon.

New CBMNet funded projects awarded

We are pleased to announce that we have awarded two new Proof of Concept awards and one Business Interaction Voucher.

The University of Nottingham will be working with Croda Europe on the project ‘Solid state NMR analysis of lipid/surfactant interactions’, funded through a CBMNet Business Interaction Voucher.

Surfactants, including soaps, are compounds, the molecules of which possess a dual affinity for water, both attracting and repelling it. They disrupt lipidic structures, such as the membranes of bacteria and higher organisms alike. In this proposal, we aim to investigate the effect of bioproduced industrial surfactants on lipid bilayers, membrane models, to understand the mechanisms of surfactant function, to understand and optimise stability of
bioproduction and to gain insights into cellular stability in the presence of these surfactants. To achieve this, we will use advanced analytical methods, including solid state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), to investigate the stability of lipid bilayers in the presence of varied amounts of surfactant. Spectra, obtained from naturally present phosphorus atoms in the membranes, provide a sensitive tool for quantitative assaying of lamellar to non-lamellar conversion in the presence of surfactants.

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. Furthermore, our studies demonstrated that plants can produce PGM-NPs which can make high-performing plant-based catalysts, either in their native state or after modification. These high value products could help satisfy demand for precious metals in industry and medicine. However, the full potential of plants as PGM accumulators is yet to be realised and will critically depend on the mechanism for PGM uptake, an area of great controversy. The aim of this study is to establish whether PGM uptake in plants is via passive diffusion or mediated by (specific) proteins.

The University of Lincoln, along with Green Biologics Ltd will be working on the project ‘Identifying and characterising protective lipid changes under solventogenic stress’, funded through a CBMNet Proof of Concept Grant.

Solventogenic Clostridia are used by Green Biologics Ltd (GBL) to generate n-butanol from a variety of feedstocks providing sugars for fermentation.  n-Butanol is expensive to purify from the fermentation broth but the cost of in situ solvent removal is greatly decreased by fermenting to higher concentrations of n-butanol.   One particular challenge is that n-butanol is toxic to Clostridia at concentrations in excess of ~2% and metabolism slows down at substantially lower butanol concentrations.  A previous BIV between Alan Goddard (AG) and GBL determined that n-butanol directly disrupts model lipid bilayers made from extracted Clostridia membranes.

It has been reported that a number of changes in lipid composition of the plasma membrane occur in response to n-butanol production.  One specific class of lipids, plasmalogens, are potentially important in this process and have been shown to be upregulated in Clostridia under solventogenic stress.  Plasmalogens are ether phospholipids characterized by a vinyl ether linkage at the sn-1 position and an ester linkage at the sn-2 position and may influence the structure and function of the membrane when exposed to stresses such as n-butanol.  Using lipidomics expertise developed by Professor Ian Graham (IG) and Dr Tony Larson (TL) at the University of York, this proposal aims to determine the specific changes in plasma membrane lipid composition during n-butanol formation and to investigate their effects on membrane stability in the presence of n-butanol with a view to being able to modulate this system for enhanced biofuel production.