2017 – DECEMBER: Factories for Advanced Biomanufacturing


6-7 December 2017 | Sheffield, UK


The imperative to revolutionise the chemicals industry by creating a sustainable bio-based future and the increasing importance of biologics in medicine pose major challenges to UK biotechnologists. The design and implementation of bespoke advanced microbial cell factories, that can reproducibly yield bio-based alternatives to the chemicals that underpin so much of modern infrastructure is a fundamental challenge. Chassis engineering represents the single most critical technology to revolutionise biomanufacturing by improving product yields, simplifying product recovery and improving sustainability through reduced materials use and waste, thereby enhancing process economics and commercial viability. With a strong research base already working on microbial chassis engineering, CBMNet is the natural progenitor for such an event centred on microbial chassis design.

This event brought together over 130 academics with diverse interests in microbial chassis engineering, alongside industrial scientists who are interested in improving the robustness of whole-cell biocatalysts to overcome restrictions on product titres, separability, sustainability and process economics. Key themes for the event addressed six major challenges in chassis design:

  • Reverse-engineering of microbial chassis, where the manufacturing process is designed first, and the biocatalyst is developed to match the process constraints
  • Tolerance to toxic products and substrates, to overcome current restrictions on product titres
  • Improved strain stability for continuous manufacturing, to achieve the productivity critical for bio-based bulk chemicals manufacturing
  • Improved atom efficiency, to enable efficient conversion of substrate to product without loss of carbon, by diverting fluxes away from cell growth towards product and minimizing by-product formation
  • Improved transport processes, to ensure efficient substrate uptake and product efflux
  • Innovative high throughput tools for systems metabolic engineering, including CRISPR-Cas, integrase technology, directed evolution, high-throughput screening and selection.

“Thanks for a cracking event. That was the best NIBB conference I have attended. Very high quality speakers covering a really interesting range of subjects. Only issue was that there wasn’t enough time to talk to everyone I wanted to speak to, not because it event planning – there were just too many.”

Dr Ian Archer, IBioIC.

The event opened with Dr Adriana Botes of VideraBio presenting on ‘Developing Disruptive Bio-Based Processes’. This thought provoking presentation highlighted the UK government’s lack of commitment to IBBE in the UK.


This was followed by Professor Gavin Thomas talking about ‘Understanding And Optimising Transport of Hemicellulose-Derived Nutrients For Industrial Biotechnology & Bioenergy’; Colin Harwood talking about ‘A Functional Model of The Gram-Positive Bacterial Signal Recognition Particle And Potential Biotechnological Applications’; Matt Hodges of Oxford Biotrans talking about ‘Productive Bioconversion of Hydrophobic Substrates’; and Christian Voigt takling about ‘Engineering Glucan Polymer Uptake, Production And Efflux’.

After a networking lunch we heard from Holly Smith of Green Biologics, Professor Dave Kelly and Professor Peter Henderson on the subject of product toxicity.

Next followed a session on strain stability, where we heard from Dr James Allen, UCL, Phillipe Gabant, Syngulon, Daniela Heeg, CHAIN Biotech, Samantha Bryan, University of Nottingham, Andrew Hitchcock, University of Sheffield and Josie McQuillan, University of Sheffield.

Day one finished with a poster session, followed by reception drinks and networking dinner.

Day two started with a fantastic talk from Dr Mike Lynch of Duke University on Next Generation Tools For Rapid Biomanufacturing.

This was followed by talks on atomic efficient pathways from Philip Weyrauch, Ingenza, Claudio Angione, University of Teesside, Farnaz Yusuf, ICGEB, New Delhi, Adrian Jervis, University of Manchester, and Abhishek Somani, Aberystwyth University.

After coffee were heard talks on bioprocess design from Gill Stephens, University of Nottingham, Stuart West, Biocatalysts, Georg Lentzen, Isobionics BV, Alejandro Fernandez-Martell, University of Sheffield, Naseem Guar, ICGEB, New Delhi, Naglis Malys, University of Nottingham and Tithira Wimalasena, Calysta UK.

Next up was John Heap, ICL, talking about Technologies For Rapid Cell Factory Engineering, followed by Gudmundur Oli Hreggvidsson, Matis, talking about Metabolic Engineering of Thermophiles And Genetic Tools.

The last session of day two saw Jon McKechnie, University of Nottingham, talk about Techno-Economic And Life Cycle Environmental Aspects Of Bio-Based Products; Susan Molyneux-Hodgson, University of Exeter, talk about Mobilising Ideas of Responsible Innovation; and finally Lucy Montgomery, NNFCC, talk about Business Services For SMEs In The Bioeconomy: Biobase4sme And Superbio.