Analysis and optimization of industrial microorganisms under dynamic process conditions

Project coordinator
- Aljoscha Wahl - Delft University of Technology - the Netherlands

Project leaders
- Isabel Rocha - University of Minho - Portugal
- Marco Oldiges - Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH - Germany
- Jeff Lievense - GENOMATICA - San Diego, USA
- Soares Simao - Silicolife - Portugal
- Nicolas Schauer - Metabolomic Discoveries GmbH - Germany

The transition from the currently fossil feedstock based chemical industry to a sustainable, biobased feedstock will require efficient bioprocesses for the production of commodity chemicals. The efficiency of a bioprocess strongly depends on the performance of the microorganism used. Currently, only a few commodities like ethanol, 1,3-propandiol, 1,4-Butanediol (BDO), succinic acid can be produced from renewable feedstocks.

For the success of current and new bio-processes, faster and more efficient development and design strategies for cell factories need to be developed. In this project, relevant partners study the properties of cells as factories under large-scale production conditions. Especially, effects that occur in large reactors are analyzed and the produced knowledge will be invaluable to improve the cellular properties in order to maximize fermentation performance under real-world, large-scale conditions.

The consortium focuses on a chemical that can be used as drop-in chemicals for fuels and the chemical industry, 1,4-butanediol (BDO) and isopropanol. The industrial partners are relevant players in the field and highly motivated to enable the change to a biobased economy. Genomatica has received the 2013 Kirkpatrick Chemical Engineering Achievement Award for its rapid commercialization of a direct fermentation process for 1,4-butanediol.

Next to the applied aspects, the project addresses very fundamental questions of metabolic regulation in bacteria. How does metabolism prevent overflow metabolism and substrate accelerated death by acidification of the intracellular environment upon sudden changes in the environment. Is there a training effect, especially are cells that have experienced many perturbations ‘fitter’ than ‘untrained’ cells? Which mechanisms are involved in the training phase and how does metabolism adapt to frequent perturbations.