2019 Brasil-UK Workshop – Sustainable Chemicals and Fuels through Synthetic Biology

Published on 29/06/19 in News

The three-day workshop drew together leading UK and Brazilian synthetic biologists and industrial biotechnologists from both academia and industry

For 3 days in May (28 -30 May 2019) Centro Nacional de Pesquisa em Energia e Materials (CNPEM), Campinas/SP, Brasil became home for this 100 strong, international workshop on “Sustainable Chemicals and Fuels through Synthetic Biology” https://pages.cnpem.br/IndustrialBiotech/.

Working with Director Eduardo do Couto e Silva and Scientific Director Mario T. Murakami, SBRC-Nottingham invited 30 world experts to review and debate the future of chemical and fuel production in a changing world to an audience of more than 70 working scientists from CNPEM and the UK-BR Year of Science and Innovation Programme Lead from the British Consulate in São Paulo, Rui Lopes.

The continued use of fossil fuels is no longer tenable. A finite resource, their extraction, processing and exploitation results in environmental pollution and increased greenhouse gas emissions. The challenge facing global societies is to identify sustainable and cleaner processes for chemical, fuel and food production, while at the same time reducing GHG emissions, in particular CO2. Biological routes offer the most promising alternative where, to avoid conflict with the food chain, attention largely focusses on using waste, lignocellulosic biomass as the feedstock. However, its recalcitrance to deconstruction is making the development of economic processes extremely challenging. Moreover, all currently used commercial, fermentative process are limited to the production of relatively few chemicals and fuels and all result in the net production of CO2. In the EU, for example, alcoholic fermentations annually produce 6-8 Mtons of CO2.

Synthetic Biology has a major role to play in meeting current challenges through the engineering of microbial strains (chassis) that are better able to directly convert lignocellulosic biomass, or derivative feedstocks such as sugar-rich hydrolysates or synthesis gas, into a more comprehensive array of products in processes that minimise, or even eliminate, CO2 production. The objective of this workshop was to explore the numerous options available, ranging from the:
• microbial chassis available for manufacturing processes;
• most attractive chemical and fuel options;
• consideration of the most effective lignocellulose-derived feedstock
• identity of the most efficient strategy for minimising CO2 production

The three-day workshop drew together leading UK (17) and Brazilian (7) synthetic biologists and industrial biotechnologists from both academia (22) and industry (5). To broaden the pool of expertise, participants were invited from Argentina (3) and the USA (1). Through the participation of relevant funding agencies (e.g., BBSRC, FAPESP, and CONICET) from UK, Brazil and Argentina respectively the intention was to formulate a strategy for programmes of work that could form the basis of a future funding call.