What does a Process Integration Biotechnology or Synthetic Biology Expert do? First, let’s define terms. These two terms are frequently interchanged, but are not exactly synonymous; synthetic biology should be considered one of the tools used to build a commercially useful process in the field of industrial biotechnology. The key feature is that industrial processes in these areas will generally require both biological and chemical steps. Creating, scaling and running a process that uses both biology and chemistry demands the integration of disciplines which have been traditionally practiced separately. Processes may require the chemical synthesis of a starting material that is fed to a fermentation or is the starting material for a step using an enzyme. Conversely, a fermentation may be practiced to generate a natural product which is then isolated and used as the starting material for multiple chemical steps. Most generally, the biological parts of the process will have been built using synthetic biology. A process which includes the manipulation of metabolic pathways in a micro-organism, the use of that organism in a fermentation, the feeding of various chemical components to that fermentation, the isolation of the desired material from the biological milieu, and the chemical or enzyme steps that may follow, presents a challenge for integrating all the steps into a functional process. For example, is the product of the metabolic process the best candidate of downstream chemistry? What precursor chemicals could provide starting materials to novel metabolic processes? What impurities – such as closely related by-products which might “leak” from a novel metabolic pathway – should be anticipated by the downstream processes for isolation and purification? What is the solubility of small-molecule precursors than might be added to a fermentation, and their cyto-toxicity. Are any enzymatic reactions inhibited by any impurities from upstream chemical or biological steps? Are the volume and concentration requirements of biological and chemical steps matched?
At Lee Enterprises Consulting, we have a number of highly qualified process integration biotechnology/synthetic biology experts available to assist you with any related matters. Feel free to call or email us for more information.