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Turning BacTERia into factories of BIOdegradable PLASTICS

Project description

Creating biodegradable plastics from bacteria

The BterBioPlastics project aims to create biodegradable materials to reduce global environment pollution. Alternatives from bacterial fermentation are costly and the level of production is low. The project plans to use expertise in RNA regulators to research plastics production via the non-toxic bacteria Sinorhizobium meliloti and Pseudomonas putida. Further, the project will examine pilot fermentations and metabolic modulation strategies to raise the level of bioplastics production and collaborate with bioplastics experts. The project will help promote the researcher’s career independence in synthetic biology and microbe domestication, and provide the industrial sector with a natural biodegradable plastics alternative.


Plastics are littering our environment, contributing to health problems and it is urgent to find sustainable alternatives. Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are natural (not synthetic) and non-toxic polyesters and can be derived from bacterial fermentation. However, the amount produced is low for the demand, costs for production are high and non-competitive when compared to plastics from crude oil. Therefore, it is urgent to overcome this limiting factor by increasing the production of biodegradable bioplastics. This proposal is promising and can impact our everyday life through innovative ways to increase production and versatility of bio-based degradable plastics. Herein, I propose to improve the production of different kinds of PHAs through two chassis: Sinorhizobium meliloti, and Pseudomonas putida, both recognized as safe (GRAS status) and able to grow in fermenters. First, I aim to use the gained knowledge during my PhD training in small RNA regulators (sRNAs) in S. meliloti, as well as the expertise of my host group in RNA-mediated regulation of gene expression and RNases, to improve the production of one kind of PHA in the first chassis. Second, I will implement transcriptome analysis of P. putida and generate synthetic sRNAs as an innovative vector for the control of key enzymes involved in PHA production in the second chassis. Finally, pilot fermentations and metabolic modulation strategies will upscale and upgrade the bioplastics accumulated in both organisms (collaborating with world experts in bioplastics: short-stay and secondment) and connect us to the non-academic sector. This multidisciplinary project will be broadly advertised to different audiences. I will acquire new knowledge, transferrable skills, training and collaborations. This will prompt my career to international levels in synthetic biology and domestication of microbes as bio-alternative for relevant industrial purposes. In the end, I will be prepared to become an independent scientist.

Call for proposal


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Net EU contribution
€ 147 815,04
Campus de campolide
1099 085 Lisboa

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Continente Área Metropolitana de Lisboa Área Metropolitana de Lisboa
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00