Horizon 2020
The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation

Engineering bacteria to churn out chemicals

Scientists are delving into the core machinery of cellular life, in search of the mechanisms driving bacterial evolution and adaptation. Their findings promise biosynthetic factories able to convert biomass into fuels and valuable chemicals.
Image of scientist with test tubes
Project: 
Exploiting native endowments by re-factoring, re-programming and implementing novel control loops in Pseudomonas putida for bespoke biocatalysis

We depend heavily upon dwindling petroleum and other fossil reserves not only for fuel, but also for an array of valuable chemicals. It is estimated that about 20 % of crude petroleum is used for products other than transportation and industrial fuels. Petrochemicals are for example used as raw materials in the production of pharmaceuticals and polymers that we use day-to-day.

Renewable resources are an attractive alternative to petroleum, but for them to be used, innovation is required to turn microorganisms into economically viable and powerful ‘miniature factories’. “People have been talking about expanding the potential of nature – and in particular of microbes – for a long time,” says Vítor Martins dos Santos from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, coordinator of the EU-supported project EMPOWERPUTIDA.

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