Synthetic Biology Research Centre

The SBRC-Nottingham is one of six synthetic biology research centres established by the UK Research councils BBSRC and EPSRC.

Our centre concentrates on engineering bacteria to make industrially-useful products from C1-feedstocks including the greenhouse gases, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide and methane.

Our Approach

We employ the engineering principle of “design, build, test” to iteratively inform the development of our bespoke microbes. Our accumulated knowledge and expertise in synthetic biology means we can apply our modelling approaches, genetic tools and fermentation analyses to a wide range of microbes. We have refined genome scale metabolic models of a number of anaerobic and aerobic chassis. We model fermentations and carry out flux-based analysis of metabolism. We have created advanced tools, including proprietary CRISPR/Cas9 and homologous recombination systems, for the genetic manipulation and optimisation of metabolic pathways. We therefore have a comprehensive toolbox of advanced techniques and materials enabling us to create workflows to design, build and test engineered microbes for industrial and medical application.

Ambition

Our ambition is to reduce societal reliance on petrochemicals based feedstocks by creating the technologies required to implement a more sustainable bioeconomy. We are developing genetic tools that will allow us to engineer bacteria capable of producing chemicals that are currently only available from fossil fuels.

The process is somewhat analogous to yeast fermentation that converts sugar into ethanol. Our bacteria are grown in sealed vessels and this facilitates the conversion of waste gas into ‘fixed carbon’ products through ‘gas fermentation’.

Such products include:

  • ethylene
  • 3-hydroxy-proprionic acid
  • iso-propanol
  • butadiene
  • isoprene

Feedstocks

Our feedstocks are CO2 and CH4. Why? Because, the UK doesn’t have ready access to vast amounts of biomass or sugar surpluses that it can convert into biochemicals and biofuels. Using waste greenhouse gas is a practical solution for greening the UK economy and avoids the ‘fuel versus fuel’ debate...

This gas is available from anaerobic digestion, from landfill and from gasification of municipal solid waste. It is also available from industrial sources which still rely on fossil fuels: off-gas from steel mills is rich in CO2 and CO. This approach enables a wide range of valuable advanced fuels and chemicals to be produced in any industrialized geography without consumption of valuable food or land resources.

We need to stop thinking of CO2 as a waste but as a resource and our feedstock for a sustainable bioeconomy.

Researchers

To convert our chosen bacteria into mini-factories that convert greenhouse gases into the chemicals we all rely on in everyday life, we have brought together over 100 research scientists and PhD students into SBRC-Nottingham. They work on many aspects of related problems, and whilst some projects are not themselves focused on gas fermentation, the research projects cross-feed each other.

The SBRC has a wealth of dedicated new equipment, bespoke facilities, cohorts of PhD studentships and many existing international research and industry connections.

The other five centres each have their own specific research remits:

Videos

Cupriavidus necator

 

Micky's Samples 

 

The Bioreactor Room 

 

Binary Toxin 

 

Methane Eaters

 

Fighting Cancer

 

 

cbs-portrait-245x245 

Useful Links

The Centre for Biomolecular Sciences

The School of Computer Sciences

The School of Biosciences