Innovative Routes to Monoterpene Hydrocarbons and Their High Value Derivatives

Innovative Routes to Monoterpene Hydrocarbons and Their High Value Derivatives

Funded Value: £3,038,980
Funded Period: Oct 14 – Sep 19
Funder: BBSRC
Principal Investigator: Nigel Shaun Scrutton
Research Topic: metabolic engineering; protein engineering; synthetic biology

Propelling chemicals/natural products production towards ‘green’ and more sustainable manufacturing processes will require the harnessing of the power of Synthetic Biology (SynBio) and integration with more traditional biocatalytic and chemo-catalytic processes. SynBio is a potentially disruptive technology, but major de-risking is required before the SynBio of chemicals manufacture can replace traditional manufacturing processes. In part, this is reflected in the major costs associated with the development of new manufacturing plant in the industrial sector, which is required to transition from conventional petrochemical/natural resource-based manufacturing to SynBio-based chemicals manufacturing.

In this programme we will design, build and integrate new SynBio technology that accelerates delivery of bespoke SynBio solutions for chemicals/natural products synthesis. Our focus is on a major group of industrially valuable compounds, the monoterpenoids, which offer new opportunities for bio-based production using SynBio. By adopting modular ‘plug-and-play’ platform approaches and a production pipeline that embraces the ‘design-build-test-deploy’ life-cycle we will turn knowledge assets into innovative chemicals production solutions for monoterpenoid compounds. We will recruit and design bespoke biological parts (e.g. enzyme catalysts; transporters; membrane components) and assemble them in novel ways to create a bio-based production pipeline contained within a synthetic, engineered microbial biofactory. Iterative design-build-test-deploy life-cycles will be used to optimise production of monoterpenoid chemicals in defined proof-of-principle projects. Using these Demonstrator Projects, we will deliver innovative SynBio approaches for chemicals/natural products biosynthesis and promote leading capability development that will stimulate interactions with industry and other stakeholders. These projects will require the unique, multidisciplinary environment (including bioscience, engineering, chemistry and computational science) and collaborative working culture represented by the team of applicants.

Enzyme-catalysed SynBio-based synthesis is attractive: regio- and stereo-selective biotransformation, use of ‘green’ reaction conditions and lack of toxic by-products combine to make biosynthesis attractive in sustainable manufacturing. US and European legislation acknowledges that products from biosynthetic manufacturing processes are considered ‘natural’. This adds significant market value, especially in foods and flavourings manufacture, as is the case in the production and use of monoterpenoids. The SynBio approaches we develop will also generate new chemical entities not readily accessible using traditional synthetic approaches. This will provide new opportunities for industrial exploitation, including the synthesis of new chemical libraries that will support industrial and academic drug discovery programmes. More broadly, the programme will provide general tools, technology platforms and SynBio ‘know-how’ that will impact widely in sustainable manufacture of chemicals and natural products and de-risk SynBio approaches for more rapid take-up and development by the industrial sector.

“…we will design, build and integrate new SynBio technology that accelerates delivery of bespoke SynBio solutions for chemicals/natural products synthesis…”

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