Today, most organic chemicals are derived from petroleum. Fredrick Frank, Vice Chairman, Peter J. Solomon Company, offers this perspective on the sustainable chemistry industry: “Several published reports have concluded that about two-thirds of those chemicals can be generated from renewable raw materials, rather than from oil. If so, sustainable chemistry potentially has a market size of about $1 trillion. Less than 7 percent of organic chemicals are currently produced from renewable materials, thus there is an opportunity for long-term growth.”
Life Technologies Provides a Comprehensive Workflow for Vaccine Development
Demand is growing in developing and developed countries around the world for cost-effective vaccines to prevent infectious diseases. But development of new vaccines is a time consuming undertaking, requiring the identification of antigens – such as weakened viruses or bacterial toxins or other pathogens – and the development, purification and production of immunogens that might help prevent or treat diseases.
Life Technologies has a proven track record in vaccine development. It provides the molecular engineering tools and services necessary to sequence genetic information to formulate vaccines and other treatments in a more efficient and timely manner than current practices, allowing researchers to save time.
Synthetic biology enables Life Technologies to design, synthesize, test and deploy antigens and variants with rapid results, high expression and capacity. It also enables Life Technologies to develop immunogens engineered for efficacy and high titer and produce rapid assays for purification of the immunogens.
Life Technologies scientists developed the custom gene constructs that serve as the basis for HIV vaccine candidates. The gene sequences were custom-designed by scientists at GeneArt® – which merged with Life Technologies in December 2010 – and the University of Regensburg, and then tested in a phase I clinical trial by the EuroVacc Foundation. The trial proved the prophylactic vaccine to be safe and well tolerated, triggering a strong and lasting immune response in 90 percent of the candidates. Additional trials are ongoing. In 2009, GeneArt was awarded a contract by the HIV Vaccine Consortium (UK) to design and produce two HIV vaccine candidates based on the HIV gene sequences used in the 2008 trial.
In May 2009, the GeneArt gene synthesis and assembly platform was employed to create synthetic H1N1 genes, and the product was delivered within a 5-day period. GeneArt created an additional ten H1N1 viral coat protein constructs for the Robert Koch Institute (the central federal institution responsible for disease control and prevention in Germany).
Developing a Suite of Biobased Products and Services
DSM, a Life Sciences and Materials Sciences company headquartered in the Netherlands, was one of the first companies to utilize synthetic biology, dramatically improving an existing process for commercial production of Cephalexin, a synthetic antibiotic. Starting with a penicillin-producing microbial strain, DSM introduced and optimized two enzyme-encoding genes for a one-step direct fermentation of adipoyl-7-ADCA, which could then be converted into Cephalexin via two enzymatic steps. The new process replaced a 13-step chemical process, resulting in significant cost and energy savings. DSM has gone on to build a business in antibiotics, vitamins, enzymes, organic acids, and performance materials within one of its emerging business areas called Biobased Products and Services.
Major biotechnology advances are opening up opportunities in the production of biofuels and renewable chemicals as well as materials made from different types of renewable biomass. Recent DSM breakthroughs include a cocktail of enzymes that break down the lignocellulose from agricultural residues to simple C5 and C6 sugars. Advances in synthetic biology have enabled DSM to develop recombinant yeast capable of co-fermenting both hexoses and pentoses. DSM introduced enzymes from native xylose-assimilating organisms to S. cerevisiae, allowing co-fermentation of xylose and arabinose along with glucose. Recently DSM announced a 50/50 joint venture with a major ethanol producer, POET for the commercial development, demonstration and licensing of cellulosic bio-ethanol.
Similarly, starting in 2007, the use of synthetic biology methods allowed DSM to develop proprietary yeast that can operate in a low pH fermentation system to cost effectively produce high-quality biobased succinic acid. This patented process in collaboration with Roquette Frères will be scaled in a 10 kiloton plant in 2012 and new markets are expected to open with this 4-carbon chemical building block. More recently, similar work using both biotechnology and chemistry synergistically is resulting in the development of renewable adipic acid, a 6-carbon diacid that is a key monomer for applications in engineering plastics, textiles, resins, and polyurethanes. The value proposition for the industry with these new routes are cost advantaged economics, renewable feedstock flexibility, and a significant improvement in the carbon footprint measured by Life Cycle Analysis.
In summary, DSM’s long track record in anti-infectives and vitamins combined with an ever growing experience base in synthetic biology have strengthened DSM’s overall capabilities to work with partners and industry stakeholders along the emerging value chains.
Engineering Low-Cost Sugars for Petroleum Substitute