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Synthetic biology to expand diversity of nature's chemical production (RIA)


Proposals will consist of the bioengineering of the genome of organisms (e.g. yeast, algae, bacteria) to be used in industrial processes in order to optimise molecular pathways. This should lead to the design and synthesis of naturally unavailable and efficient pathways for the production of new complex and high value added chemicals for the pharmaceutical, agricultural or material sectors. Emerging synthetic biology techniques (engineering of large genomic regions, synthetic regulation for the control of gene expression and gene editing, among others) can be combined with knowledge of synthetic chemistry, enzyme engineering, systems biology and bioinformatics.

Activities should start at TRL 3 and achieve TRL 5 at the end of the project.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 6 and 8 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

For years, industries have relied upon living organisms as a source of compounds or natural products, most of which result from interactions between them. Finding these compounds has very much depended on massive screening assays. Moreover, these compounds are chemically complex and their production often involves dozens of genes controlled by intricate regulatory networks. Both the nature of these molecules and the difficulties to obtain them via chemical synthesis have restricted their commercial utilisation.

However, now synthetic biology offers unique opportunities to create analogues of natural products or even to go beyond those. It has the capacity to modify the genomes of microorganisms, discovering novel routes to obtain complex chemicals, thus expanding the chemical diversity of molecules for the production of new compounds. The use of engineering principles and tools in biological systems overcomes the bottlenecks of molecules which are not amenable for large-scale production and expands the options of new compounds for applications ranging from medicine to agriculture and materials.

  • New approaches for the production of complex chemicals;
  • Pathway design and validation for the production of at least two new compounds that would be difficult to make exclusively by chemistry, including an assessment of the related environmental benefits and risks;
  • Proved contribution to the standardisation of synthetic biology genetic parts and gene clusters.