HARNESSING BACTERIA AS MICROBIAL FACTORIES

Ingenza make headway on challenging project thanks to academic collaboration.

Researchers in St Andrews have designed bacteria that can produce plastics from sugar in an IBioIC-funded project for long-standing partners Ingenza and Lucite International.

The project was intended to explore the potential of using designer bacteria to produce methacrylate, a molecule which can be incorporated into polymers to provide durable, scratch-resistant properties for products like bone cement and windscreens. Ingenza have expertise in industrial biotechnology and develop novel solutions for Lucite, who are major acrylic producers and approached Ingenza to develop an IB solution to acrylic production. Rebecca Goss and her team at St Andrews University received funding from IBioIC to design bacteria that were capable of sustainably producing methacrylate from glucose.

How can bacteria produce plastic from glucose?
In the overwhelming majority of living cells, glucose is converted to energy using the Krebs cycle. The team at St Andrews created a diversion from this cycle in E. coli by harnessing the power of DNA from non-native sources.  The DNA was used to create various steps required for the new methacrylate pathway. It was hoped that this newly engineered pathway would be able to produce methacrylate monomers that could then be polymerised to produce polymers for Lucite.

Successful production of butyl methacrylate
The project was a challenging one, but the team were excited to see that their diversion worked, and they were able to produce BMA (butyl methacrylate, the methacrylate monomer) in vitro when the proteins were produced individually. There did, however, appear to be a bottleneck when all the proteins were produced in one cell, which prevented the final product from being made. Ingenza are now able to carry on improving the pathway in the cell thanks to the significant advances towards the production of methacrylate made during this collaborative project.

“The value of the academic relationships Ingenza accesses through IBioIC-supported collaborations drives leveraged value for Ingenza’s customers. The follow-on work now needed to take from feasibility into full productive usage, whilst of some risk, is now ready to be exploited.” Reuben Carr, Ingenza

To learn more about project funding, contact projects@ibioic.com.