WCIB 2017 | July 23 to 26, 2017 | Montreal, Canada

Many technology companies in the industrial biotechnology arena are nowadays focusing their activities on building microbial production strains to address new ingredient products for the food and personal care industry.

Production hosts made from bacteria or yeast are designed and engineered to be applied in fermentation processes to manufacture novel sweeteners, flavors or fragrances. Recent scientific advances in synthetic biology have paved new possibilities and will lead to exciting new high-value products entering the market. On the other hand, from the author’s point of view, the efficiency of fermentation processes is sometimes a little bit overrated. Expectations towards product formation rates and product titers are too high and unrealistic. Many of the limitations are connected to the fact that fermentation processes are based on a vital and active microorganism. However, many products of interest at least in higher concentration are toxic to cells; for instance hydrophobic molecules accumulate in the membranes and thereby exert adverse effects. Therefore, one should consider to make use of corresponding “metabolic pathways” or better call it multi-enzyme synthesis sequences towards new products in a cell-free in vitro setup. Enzymes can be easily adapted to cope with very high substrate and product concentrations that are by factors larger than usual titers encountered in fermentation processes; you can even teach them to work in non-aqueous reaction systems. Enzymes can be stabilized in a way that they can be recycled and used many times. One often used argument against the in vitro use of enzymes is the necessity of very expensive cofactors and cosubstrates. But such costs automatically come down with increasing product titers. Smart concepts for cofactor recycling and in situ cosubstrate generation also help to increase the process cost efficiency. The talk will exemplify enzyme engineering and synthesis process development work done by c-LEcta on multi-enzyme one-pot synthesis of high-value food ingredient products as well as an outlook towards the potential of cell-free synthetic biology will be given.