News and Events in brief

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SynBioBeta article: How Manchester’s SYNBIOCHEM is harnessing the power of synthetic biology to scale up the production of chemicals and materials:

Discover our research in our new University of Manchester Chemistry videos on YouTube!
Demystifying the science behind our research papers, these videos provide a real world view of how important these discoveries are for day to day life. These include: Finding new routes to replacement molecules for oil using yeast; developing new routes to cheaper, better drugs by pairing man-made synthesis with natural enzymes; and harnessing the power of enzymes to make useful molecules for pharmaceuticals, polymers and plastics using alcohol. Find out more here

How robots could solve the antibiotics production Crisis: The World Health Organisation, has highlighted a lack of new antibiotics in development which is leading to a crisis in antibiotic production and our ability to tackle infections. However, cutting-edge technology gives us a chink of hope in what could otherwise be seen as an intractable problem says Eriko Takano, Professor of Synthetic Biology at The University of Manchester. SYNBIOCHEM is combining the strengths of biology with the power of engineering to find new ways to deal with this problem. Find out more here

Breakthrough in pharmaceuticals production with new enzyme discovery: Scientists have discovered a new enzyme that will make a drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease cheaper and quicker to produce. Researchers at the Universities of Manchester and York found the enzyme in Aspergillus oryzae, a kind of fungus used for making soy sauce. The discovery, ‘A reductive aminase from Aspergillus oryzae’ was published in Nature Chemistry.

New Publications: Full list and more detail can be found here:

A vitamin K-dependent carboxylase orthologue is involved in antibiotic biosynthesis. Law B, Zhuo Y, Winn M, Francis D, Samborskyy M, Murphy A, Ren L, Leadlay P F and Micklefield J. Nature Catalysis (2018) Web link    This latest Micklefield Lab paper out in describes discovery of a new biosynthetic pathway with a highly unusual carboxylase enzyme (MloH) producing a structurally unique antibiotic malonomycin.              

The Values of Synthetic Biology: Researcher Views of Their Field and Participation in Public Engagement. Rose KM, Howell EL, Scheufele DA, Brossard D, Xenos MA, Shapira P, Youtie J, Kwon S.  BioScience, 68, 10, 782–791.

Engaging the Senses, Understanding Publics: Research Methods, Science Engagement, and Synthetic Biology. Meckin R, Balmer A. Trends Biotechnol. 2017 Nov;35(11):1015-1017. Web link

Detection and Quantification of Butyrolactones from Streptomyces. Biarnes-Carrera M, Breitling R, Takano E. Methods Mol Biol. 2018;1673:117-128. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-7309-5_10. Web link

Computing exponentially faster: implementing a non-deterministic universal Turing machine using DNA Currin A, Korovin K, Ababi M, Roper K, Kell DB, Day PJ, King RD. J. Roy Soc Interface DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2016.0990 The paper which focuses on the creation of a new DNA-based computing device, can be viewed at:

Tracking the emergence of synthetic biology Shapira, P., Kwon, S. & Youtie, J. Scientometrics (2017). doi:10.1007/s11192-017-2452-5.  Weblink

New funded collaborations

International Research Alliance for Antiboiotic Discovery and Development Network: SYNBIOCHEM Co-director Eriko Takano is a founding participant in this new network which is one of eight networks awarded funding within the JPIAMR 2018 call for transnational networks “Building the Foundation of the JPIAMR Virtual Research Institute”. Each funded network will receive €50,000 to establish expertise clusters to identify research community needs and develop ideas to form the foundation for the JPIAMR Virtual Research Institute (JPIAMR-VRI). The IRAADD network includes internationally renowned groups with excellence in AMR research focussing on early stages of antibiotic discovery and development. This expert team will include natural products researchers, medical microbiologists, bioinformaticians, medicinal chemists and target-based drug designers, as well advisory partners from global alliances focussing on antibiotic development such as DNDi/GARDP and IMI-ENABLE. The network partners ill set up a cooperative platform to allow the sharing of scientific research data, translational knowledge and expert advice for the strategic development of new and advanced projects with the aim to take collaborative scientific research in the early stages of antibiotics discovery and development to a new level.

Using Synthetic Biology, Metagenomics, and Bioprocessing to provide alternative routes to high value chemicals a UK / Brazil collaboration. Lignin valorization in cellulosic ethanol plants: biocatalytic conversion via ferulic acid to high value chemicals. Summary: Lignin can be obtained as a by-product of cellulosic ethanol production, and is a potential source of renewable chemicals. Efficient valorisation of lignin is a major unsolved problem in the development of sustainable biorefineries. This 5 year project builds upon an existing BBSRC/FAPESP FAPPA partnership award, and brings together expertise in cellulosic ethanol production and in biocatalyst discovery (CTBE) with expertise in biocatalytic lignin valorisation (Warwick) and biocatalysis for high value chemicals production (Manchester,UCL).

Synthetic biology for high performance materials: In partnership with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), University of Manchester (UoM) and the Synthetic Biology (SynBio) Research Centre SYNBIOCHEM, have launched a series of SynBio initiatives around the development of high performance materials with potential civilian and military applications. The research unites expertise in SynBio, additive manufacture, polymer science and allied disciplines and is focused on aramid fibres, multi-functional nanofibres, bioprocessing of agricultural waste and enzyme engineering for new materials. This work is complemented by additional projects funded through EPSRC/Innovate UK.

Development of thoroughly optimised production chassis for advanced pharmaceutical ingredients: A new H2020 funded project TOPCAPI, involving 8 academic and industry partners from 4 different countries (led by Prof. Takano) will exploit the natural fabrication power of actinomycetes as microbial cell factories to produce high-value pharmaceutical ingredients.

RoadMAPS to societal mobilisation for the advancement of responsible industrial technologies: Is a new EU programme that aims to connect industrial players with actors from research and civil society organisations to discuss and implement roadmaps for the responsible development of technologies in 3 key fields including SynBio (Led by Randles).