This project has received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological
development and demonstration


New-to-nature biosurfactants by metabolic engineering: production and application

Abstract - This project aims to create new-to-nature and tailor-made biosurfactants through metabolic engineering of the unconventional yeast Candida bombicola. Biosurfactants produced by fermentation offer a worthy alternative to traditional surfactants, which are typically derived from non-renewable petrochemical resources and may cause environmental problems due to their ecotoxicity and poor biodegradability. Despite the clear advantages of biosurfactants, their overall use is hampered by the lack of structural variation. This is in sharp contrast to chemically produced surfactants where one can introduce variation by simply changing the building blocks. Structural variation is essential as (bio)surfactants find application in a very broad range of sectors. This project aims to alleviate this fundamental limitation by developing a generic biotechnological production technology for glycolipid biosurfactants. This will in turn significantly broaden the range of commercial biosurfactants, satisfying the need for structural diversity in the market. It is expected that this technology will result in a breakthrough penetration of glycolipid biosurfactants in the overall surfactant market, in this way helping to build the bio-based economy.

Indeed, biosurfactants are a promising target for the biobased economy as the world surfactant production exceeds 13 Mton/year and is meanly based on petrochemical raw materials.

The very efficient biosurfactant producing yeast C. bombicola will be metabolically engineered such that all structural parts of the glycolipid biosurfactant molecule can be controlled: fatty acid tail, sugar moiety, acetylation and lactonization. New technology for metabolic engineering of unconventional organisms such as the use of meganucleases will be developed and strains will be evaluated by several “omics” approaches: proteomics, transcriptomics and metabolomics . Metabolically engineered production strains equipped with new combinations of genes and pathways will synthesize tailor-made and new-to-nature biosurfactants. For each target molecule, a fermentation process will be developed and the molecules will be evaluated for various applications (cleaning and cosmetics, medics and nanoscience). The project thus covers the whole innovation chain from basic research to production and application development. To achieve this goal, a complementary consortium of European academic and industrial partners (including a large participation of SMEs) has been formed that covers the whole range of required expertises.

In brief, BIOSURFING promotes the use of biotechnology as a valid production process for novel industrial compounds, the development of biotechnological platform technologies and robust microbial industrial production systems. Moreover, the projects helps to realise the objectives of EU environmental and innovation policy initiatives, such as the Environmental Technology Action Plan and the EU Strategy for key enabling technologies.

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October 2011 – September 2015
KBBE.2011.3.3-03: Cellular, metabolic and genetic engineering for novel compounds

 © Ghent University 2011