Synthetic Biology Research Centre

The SBRC-Nottingham is one of six UKRI (BBSRC and EPSRC) synthetic biology research centres It was established in 2014.

Our centre uses engineering biology approaches to understand and then modify industrially-relevant bacteria.

Our research is directed towards making useful products including chemicals and fuels from the greenhouse gases: carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and methane. We look on these waste materials as the C1 feedstocks from which useful molecules and products can be made sustainably.

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 technologies for a sustainable bioeconomy. To that end we modify bacteria so that they become 'mini-factories' to synthesise the chemicals society needs from greenhouse gases.

Our bacteria grow in sealed vessels to facilitate the conversion of waste gas into 'fixed carbon' products through 'gas fermentation'. Products which we have already made include:

  • 1,3 butanediol
  • mevalonate
  • isoprene
  • 3-hydroxyproprionate
  • isopropanol
  • acetone
  • 2,3 butanediol
  • butanol
  • acetoin
  • limonene
  • itaconate
  • mannitol
  • 5-aminovalerate

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 a community of over 70 research scientists and PhD students in 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 equipment, bespoke facilities 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