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Partner to enhance production in Biorefining

16 February 2016

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) and the University of Cambridge have entered into an Innovate UK funded collaboration to develop a novel microbial-based technology to improve the underlying process-economics of industrial fermentations.

Starting in January 2016 the project is part of Innovate UK’s ‘production of commodity, platform and intermediate chemicals and materials industrial biotechnology challenge’.

The project will progress an innovative technology which suspends unnecessary cell metabolism and growth while maintaining the production of chemical products, a state known as quiescence. The advantage of quiescent cell technology (Q-Cells) is the abiity to maintain productivity whilst reducing feedstock utilisation and waste generation. The technology will be investigated using industrially relevant process parameters under scaled-down conditions. This study will assess the techno-commercial potential of the technology to improve the competitiveness of industrial biotechnology to produce bulk chemicals. The project will continue to develop and translate previous research undertaken by Dr David Summers, Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge. David has developed the proof-of-concept technology for Q-Cells in E. coli.

CPI will lead the project at its headquarters in Wilton working alongside the University of Cambridge. The partnership combines the process knowledge and industrial network of CPI with the academic expertise in microbial genetics, synthetic biology and strain engineering of the University of Cambridge. The project will evaluate the Q-Cell performance under process relevant conditions by monitoring the production of 3-hydroxybutyrate, a chiral molecule which is a building block for biodegradable polymers (bioplastics).

  • “If successful this exciting technology has the potential to transform the economic feasibility of a number of industrial biotechnology processes. This project forms part of suite of novel ‘enabling technology’ development projects being developed at CPI in engineering and biotechnology. We look forward to working closely with the University of Cambridge on this project’’.

    Steve Pearson
    Business and Strategy Manager at CPI said
  • “This collaborative venture with CPI provides an ideal opportunity to move quiescent cell technology out of the academic environment and meet the challenges of the market place. It is exciting to see that, once again, the results of a basic research programme in a University environment can potentially be translated into technology with real economic benefits”

    David Summers
    University of Cambridge commented

The UK chemicals industry has a turnover of >£57bn, of which £4-12bn will be generated from industrial biotechnology by 2025. More specifically, bioplastics, a replacement for hydrocarbon plastics, is a rapidly expanding market predicted to grow from 1.4M T in 2012 to over 6M T by 2017.