Case study - CBMNet
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 production is poor product yield, often caused by intoxication of the cells.
To address this problem, a £3 million research project (DeTox) 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 Jeff 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.
Prof Green, Director of CBMNet, said: “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.”
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.