A big new EU project called SHIKIFACTORY100 aims at producing more than 100 high value compounds and chemicals such as flavours and fragrances biologically. This will be done using genetically optimized cells, designed to produce the desired compounds through the cellular pathway called ‘shikimate’.
The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability (DTU Biosustain) at Technical University of Denmark is part of this ambitious project and will develop optimized microorganisms (chassis) for the production of shikimate-derived chemicals.
“We will apply metabolic modeling and systems-level data analysis to design the cells’ metabolism. We will then use CRISPR-genome editing, biosensors-based selection and other synthetic biology tools to engineer the metabolism of the chassis towards shikimate production,” says Senior Researcher Irina Borodina from DTU Biosustain, who is involved in SHIKIFACTORY100.
Professor Alex Toftgaard Nielsen and Professor Markus Herrgard and their respective groups from DTU Biosustain are also involved in the project.
Unprecedented in Europe
The project has received 8 million Euros from EU’s Horizon2020 program. It involves 11 partners from both academia and industry.
CEO and co-founder of SilicoLife, Simão Soares, is Coordinator of the project. According to him, the technologies proposed in SHIKIFACTORY100 are state-of-the-art and unprecedented in Europe. Hence, he hopes that this project will contribute to increasing the European leadership in synthetic biology: “Hopefully [this will] set a new EU-wide trend in motion and increase the competitiveness of our bio-economy,” he states in a press release.
Gradual replacement of artificial ingredients
Bio-based processes are expected to become the preferred approach to produce chemicals from renewable feedstock using cell factories.
The demand for ingredients from sustainable sources has been gaining enormous momentum recent years. Gradual replacement of artificial ingredients with biologically produces alternatives is becoming ever more important among large companies. However, the natural resources used in these industrial sectors are often limited and climate dependent, leading to increased prices and price fluctuations.
Therefore, SHIKIFACTORY100 seeks the rapid and cost-effective development of biological alternatives to both novel compounds and known compounds that are currently only produced by petrochemical processes or limited to plant extraction.