This year, I had the opportunity to attend the Synbiobeta 2013 Conference. Synbiobeta is an organization with the mission of fostering a community, and ecology of people, organizations and companies involved in synthetic biology.
The conference was divided up
into several sessions. In the next few posts, I will try to summarize
what I thought was noteworthy during the meeting. We'll start with
The topic of the first session was
"Scale up in the Bioeconomy". Speakers were Edward Green from Green
Biologics, Derek Greenfield from LS9, Paul Hill from Amyris, Kevin Gray
from BetaRenewables, Sean Ward from Synthace, and Harry Yim from
I was intrigued by Green Biologics
which was talking about using Clostridium as their production platform. They also spoke of using photosynthetic
organisms to make butanol and other high value derivatives. I have
never heard of this UK-based company (a reminder to keep eyes and ears
open for any new companies in this market). What intrigued me was how
they talked about using a capital-light approach during the scale-up
which is to say that rather than building new commercial-scale
production facilities (unlike Amyris), they were just looking for
already existing sites that they could purchase for a cheap price. They
spoke of a 1.000.000 L commercial plant they are in the process of
getting ready. Interestingly, searching for Green Biologics news on Google does not yield (m)any hits. The company does have a functional
website which also serves as the only news outlet I found concerning the
company. Why these news announcements don't circulate the news media is
a mystery to me. Or is this company still in a too early phase to be
noted by anyone?
talked about using their special bio-reactor designs that allow them to
siphon products of interest off the upper organic phase. Using the fatty
acid pathways, LS9 wanted to bring alkanes and olefins to the market.
LS9 currently is in the process of experimenting with production of
those products at the 50-100 thousand L scale in Florida.
Paul Hill spoke on behalf of Amyris
basically reporting back on recent successes we have had in our
commercial scale facilities in Brotas. Amyris, of course, is leveraging
the isoprenoid pathway to make farnesene and other high value products
or derivative products. One of the things, he noted was that we are able
to produce farnesene currently at a little below $5/L.
talked about using bioinformatics and modeling to come up with holistic
bio-process development processes quickly. This talk seemed a bit more
hand-wavy than most of the other industrial talks.
Last but not least, Genomatica
spoke of their recent successes producing 1,4-BDO at commercial scale.
Of note here: Apart from Amyris, Genomatica was the only other company
talking about a specific product they were in the process of
Rather than going into the minute
details of each talk, what I thought was more interesting was a certain
convergence of technologies and approaches, namely: most talks mentioned
the design-build-test cycle paradigm, using both directed evolution and
rational design techniques coupled to some high-throughput testing
pipeline, as well as leveraging different omics tools to get lots of
I will report on the other sessions in later posts.