Science Overview
Science Overview

In our search for better medicines to improve healthcare in an ageing population, for safer agrochemicals to aid food production for a growing population and for advanced materials for new technologies, the global demand for molecules based upon a group of relatively simple carbon based molecules (including ethylene, propylene, butadiene and benzene) continues to increase. Sadly current petroleum and natural gas-based supply chains simply can’t continue to expand to meet this burgeoning need. We can only close this increasing gap between supply and demand by innovating and solving serious scientific challenges.

Funded by the BBSRC and EPSRC, the UK Government has initiated the creation of a number of multidisciplinary Synthetic Biology Research Centres (SBRC) charged with the accelerating the realisation of the benefits of the outputs of Synthetic Biology to business and society.

Synthetic biology is “the design and engineering of biologically based parts, novel devices and systems as well as the redesign of existing, natural biological systems”. It is a newly emerged scientific discipline that has arisen through the merger of several core areas of science, principally biology, engineering, chemistry and Information Communication Technology.

The SBRC- Nottingham will use Synthetic Biology to engineer microorganisms that can be used to manufacture the molecules and fuels that modern society needs in a cleaner and greener way.

We will harness the ability of organisms, to ‘eat’ single-carbon containing gases, such as carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4).

When these gases are injected into the liquid medium of fermentation vessels they are consumed by the bacteria and converted into more desirable and useful molecules. Fortunately CO, our initial target, is an abundant resource, and a waste product of industries such as steel manufacturing, oil refining and chemical production. Moreover, it can be readily generated in the form of Synthesis Gas (‘Syngas’), by the gasification (heating) of forestry and agricultural residues and municipal waste.

By allowing the use of all these available low cost, non-food resources, such a process overcomes concerns over the use of land resources that could be used for food production. Furthermore, capturing the large volume of CO (destined to become CO2 once released into the atmosphere) emitted by industry for fuel and chemical production provides a net reduction in fossil carbon emissions. We will also develop new organisms that can grow on the sugar (glucose and xylose) released from the deconstruction of biomass, derived from municipal waste, agricultural residues and specialist crops grown on land that is unsuitable for food production.

The core scientific aims of the SBRC at Nottingham will be to:

  • Specify
  • Design
  • Test
  • Validate
  • Exploit microbial cell factories

Needed for the efficient production of the chemical that are essential for a modern industrial society.

Through effective communication and promotion we will showcase new science and demonstrate how organisms can make important molecules that will take the place of current fossil fuel based feedstocks. We will improve the current public perception of the scientific community and show how innovation can lead to economic and environmental benefits. We are passionate about sustainability and we believe we can share this vision to the rest of the UKs scientific community and the general public who use our products.




  • Clostridium difficile Genome Editing Using pyrE Alleles.

    Ehsaan M, Kuehne SA, Minton NP.

    Methods Mol Biol. 2016;1476:35-52. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-6361-4_4. PMID: 27507332

  • A genetic assay for gene essentiality in Clostridium.

    Walker DJ, Heap JT, Winzer K, Minton NP.

    Anaerobe. 2016 Jul 31;42:40-43. doi: 10.1016/j.anaerobe.2016.07.007. PMID: 27487328

  • Advancing Clostridia to Clinical Trial: Past Lessons and Recent Progress

    Mowday AM, Guise CP, Ackerley DF, Minton NP, Lambin P, Dubois LJ, Theys J, Smaill JB, Patterson AV.

    Cancers (Basel). 2016 Jun 28;8(7). pii: E63. doi: 10.3390/cancers8070063. Review. PMID: 27367731

  • CRISPR/Cas9-Based Efficient Genome Editing in Clostridium ljungdahlii, an Autotrophic Gas-Fermenting Bacterium

    Huang H, Chai C, Li N, Rowe P, Minton NP, Yang S, Jiang W, Gu Y.

    ACS Synth Biol. 2016 Jun 15. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 27276212

  • SBRC-Nottingham: sustainable routes to platform chemicals from C1 waste gases.

    Burbidge A, Minton NP.

    Biochem Soc Trans. 2016 Jun 15;44(3):684-6. doi: 10.1042/BST20160010. Review. PMID: 27284026

  • A roadmap for gene system development in Clostridium.

    Minton NP, Ehsaan M, Humphreys CM, Little GT, Baker J, Henstra AM, Liew F, Kelly ML, Sheng L, Schwarz K, Zhang Y.

    Anaerobe. 2016 May 24. pii: S1075-9964(16)30064-6. doi: 10.1016/j.anaerobe.2016.05.011. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 27234263

  • Production of a functional cell wall-anchored minicellulosome by recombinant Clostridium acetobutylicum ATCC 824.

    Willson BJ, Kovács K, Wilding-Steele T, Markus R, Winzer K, Minton NP.

    Biotechnol Biofuels. 2016 May 23;9:109. doi: 10.1186/s13068-016-0526-x. eCollection 2016. PMID:27222664

  • Insights into CO2 Fixation Pathway of Clostridium autoethanogenum by Targeted Mutagenesis.

    Liew F, Henstra AM, Winzer K, Köpke M, Simpson SD, Minton NP.

    MBio. 2016 May 24;7(3). pii: e00427-16. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00427-16. PMID: 27222467

  • CRISPR-based genome editing and expression control systems in Clostridium acetobutylicum and Clostridium beijerinckii.

    Li Q, Chen J, Minton NP, Zhang Y, Wen Z, Liu J, Yang H, Zeng Z, Ren X, Yang J, Gu Y, Jiang W, Jiang Y, Yang S.

    Biotechnol J. 2016 May 23. doi: 10.1002/biot.201600053. [Epub ahead of print] PMID:27213844

  • Development of an inducible transposon system for efficient random mutagenesis in Clostridium acetobutylicum.

    Zhang Y, Xu S, Chai C, Yang S, Jiang W, Minton NP, Gu Y.

    FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2016 Apr;363(8). pii: fnw065. doi: 10.1093/femsle/fnw065. Epub 2016 Mar 20. PMID: 27001972

  • Effects of mutation of 2,3-butanediol formation pathway on glycerol metabolism and 1,3-propanediol production by Klebsiella pneumoniae J2B

    Vinod Kumar, Meetu Durgapal, Mugesh Sankaranarayanan, Ashok Somasundar, Chelladurai Rathnasingh, HyoHak Song, Doyoung Seung, Sunghoon Park

    Bioresource Technology Volume 214, August 2016, Pages 432–440


  • Improving the reproducibility of the NAP1/B1/027 epidemic strain R20291 in the hamster model of infection.

    Kelly ML, Ng YK, Cartman ST, Collery MM, Cockayne A, Minton NP.

    Anaerobe. 2016 Jun;39:51-3. doi: 10.1016/j.anaerobe.2016.02.011. Epub 2016 Mar 2. PMID:26946361

  • The dilemma of raising awareness “responsibly” The need to discuss controversial research with the public raises a conundrum for scientists: when is the right time to start public debates?

    Brigitte Nerlich 1,2 and Carmen McLeod 1,2

    DOI: 10.15252/embr.201541853

  • Mutant generation by allelic exchange and genome resequencing of the biobutanol organism Clostridium acetobutylicum ATCC 824.

    Ehsaan M, Kuit W, Ying Z, Cartman ST, Heap JT, Winzer K, Minton NP

    Biotechnology for Biofuels 2016 9:4 DOI: 10.1186/s13068-015-0410-0


  • Whole genome sequence and manual annotation of Clostridium autoethanogenum, an industrially relevant bacterium.

    Christopher M. Humphreys, Samantha McLean, Sarah Schatschneider, Thomas Millat, Anne M. Henstra, Florence J. Annan, Ronja Breitkopf, Bart Pander, Pawel Piatek, Peter Rowe, Alexander T. Wichlacz, Craig Woods, Rupert Norman, Jochen Blom, Alexander Goesman, Charlie Hodgman, David Barrett, Neil R. Thomas, Klaus Winzer, Nigel P. Minton

    BMC Genomics (2015)16:1085 DOI: 10.1186/s12864-015-2287-5

  • An explicit numerical scheme to efficiently simulate molecular diffusion in environments with dynamically changing barriers

    Kossow, C.; Rybacki, S.; Millat, T.; Rateitschak, K.; Jaster, R.; Uhrmacher, A. M. & Wolkenhauer, O.

    Math. Comp. Model. Dyn., 2015, 21, 535-559

  • New tools for the genetic modification of industrial Clostridia

    Schwarz K, Zhang Y, Kuit W, Ehsaan M, Kovács K, Winzer K AND Minton NP.(2015) IN: Michael E Himmel (Editor)

    Direct Microbial Conversion of Biomass to Advanced Biofuels Part 4: Fuels from Bacteria Chapter 13, Pages 241-289, DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-444-59592-8.00013-0


  • Coenzyme A-transferase-independent butyrate re-assimilation in Clostridium acetobutylicum - Evidence from a mathematical model

    Millat, T.; Voigt, C.; Janssen, H.; Cooksley, C. M.; Winzer, K.; Minton, N. P.; Fischer, R.-J.; Bahl, H. & Wolkenhauer, O.

    Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol., 2014, 98, 9059-9072