CE.20.021 – BOOST: boosting the expanded use of cell factories for a clean, circular economy

Route: Circular economy

Cluster question: 017 How can we make chemical and biochemical production processes more sustainable, more efficient, and cleaner?

Global climate change, limited availability of fossil fuels and evolving societal views have boosted the demand for robust and efficient microbial factories for the manufacturing of drop-in bio-based products from renewable feedstocks. Microbial chassis used for fermentation processes in industrial biotechnology, historically, have been selected based on their presence in fermented food, not because they perform well under the harsh conditions in large-scale chemical production. To perform well, these chassis should be able to maintain the production of bio-based chemicals in the presence of high substrate and product concentrations, in the presence of solvents, at elevated temperatures, under shear, etc. Current efforts in chassis optimization are linked to streamlining, which aims to provides a solid foundation for increasing the understanding of cellular circuitry as streamlining helps to generate simplified, stabilized and therefore predictable genomes. However, the current chassis are not appropriately equipped for these harsh industrial conditions. Therefore, biotechnology industries has worked for decades with ‘imperfect’ chassis, ad-hoc engineering them to produce novel compounds or convert novel substrates. However, both a lack of knowledge and inability to radically engineer biocatalysts that can render bioprocesses economically competitive as compared to petrochemical-based industries has seriously hampered efforts for a true shift towards a biobased economy . Advances in systems and synthetic biology as well as on computational sciences and robotics now make long-awaited breakthroughs possible. This programme thus aims to explore and rationally engineer industrially desired traits into existing and novel cell-factories allowing them to fulfil the requirements for next generation products and bioprocesses, and within a responsible research innovation framework. Thereby, it will meaningfully contribute to the lay the basis for shift from a petrochemical to bio-based economy.


(comparative) genomics, Big Data, bioinformatics, bioprocess engineering, computational modeling, metabolic engineering, phenotyping, responsible research innovation, robotics, safe-by design, systems & synthetic biology

Other organisations

a cluster of various industrial participants, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen (RU), Technische Universiteit Delft (TUD), University of Amsterdam (UvA), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)


Organisation Wageningen University & Research (WUR)
Name Prof. dr. ir. V.A.P. (Vitor) Martins dos Santos
E-mail vitor.martinsdossantos@wur.nl
Website www.ssb.wur.nl