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Risks and Benefits from Synbio Processes

July 23, 2015
At this Wednesday morning BIO World Congress session, Thomas Ishoey, VP at Synthetic Genomics gave an overview of applying synthetic biology towards the development of proprietary synthetic routes, and key genes/pathways for strain development of enzymes and renewable chemicals. The benefits include, creating proprietary pathways and discovery and engineering of new to the world molecules, their activities and allowing scalable, robust routes, and cost parity to incumbent technologies. Some challenges mentioned were based on aerobic metabolism, low biomass availability, and use of low temperature (~30°C), and genome/strain instability issues. Nigel Mouncey, R&D Director from Dow AgroSciences, spoke about some of the challenges they are facing in developing an Engineering Biology Platform for Natural Product Development. Their approach to screening high quality-natural extracts for bioactivity using high-throughput bioassays allows for the discovery of positive compounds, and this is coupled with screening whole organisms too. Some of the challenges mentioned are based on the introduction of DNA constructs from their host organisms, such as Saccharopolyspora spinose, and the shear length of the process which causes slow generation times of their target organisms. Cargill’s Senior Scientist, Arlene Fosmer, reviewed their 30 years of industrial fermentation improvement from feedstocks to downstream processes such as granulation, encapsulation and stabilization of final product, utilization of co-product strains and processing their waste water. Partnering with customers such as Wacker, BioAmber, Novozymes, Evolva, and others were mentioned for strain development and metabolic engineering. Praj’s Associate Principle Technologist spoke about challenges and potential risks with synthetic biology such as the host-vector system to be used, source and intended function of the modification, identity and characteristics of the genetically modified microbe, culture volumes to be used, and containment controls. David Glass, from David Glass Associates, Inc., emphasized the current regulatory guidance for synthetic biology in United States, which involves NIH Guidelines which recently amended its guidelines to include synthetic biology, select agents from USDA, CDC regulations that restrict possession, use, importation and transfer of select agents and toxins, and screening framework guidance which monitors export of synthetic double-stranded DNA, and most importantly emphasized the outdoor R&D oversight. Moreover, David emphasized the regulations adopted in 1997 under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) which covers commercial uses of new (intergeneric) microorganisms not regulated by other agencies: primary rules covering industrial biotechnology.