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Biorefinery Training Platform:
Bacterial Factories for Sustainable Chemical and Drug Production

Final Report Summary - BACTORY (Biorefinery Training Platform:Bacterial Factories for Sustainable Chemical and Drug Production)

BacTory is a multi-disciplinary PhD training platform, which provides young scientists with scientific and industrially relevant skills for the establishment of next-generation biorefinery activities.

The objective of BacTory (Bacterial cell factory) is to respond to the global challenges ensuring bio-based production of important chemical.

The research within BacTory comprised:

• Discovery of novel biosynthesis routes, products and genetic tools
• Metabolic engineering based on pathway assembly and optimization
• Development of efficient production scenarios

BacTory is a groundbreaking PhD training platform, since it provides the young scientists with a combination of scientific, industrial and entrepreneurial skills.

The 3-year program has included participation in course activities to expand the scientific skills and the awareness of business options. The BacTory training also offered a close collaboration with associated industrial partners, which comprise small start-ups as well as large world leading chemical companies.The insight into industrial perspectives and requirements contributes to the crossover from academia to industry.

The first round of BacTory PhD students started on the 1st of May 2013. DTU Biosustain received EU funding for 14 PhDs in the form of Marie Curie fellowship. Since fellowships are exclusively granted to young researchers from abroad, the actual 14 PhD students represent nine different nationalities.

After the 3-year training, the young researchers are prepared to become future leading scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs, prepared to set up next-generation biorefinery facilities and to enter educational activities at all levels in Europe and world-wide.

BacTory was placed in a unique strategic research center – the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability (CfB). Research at the center covers microbial cell factory design and construction, metabolic engineering, metagenomics, systems and synthetic biology, high-throughput technologies based on single-cell approaches for screening and optimization. With this multi-disciplinary network of experts, the CfB has offered the ideal research environment for the BacTory training.

Since the beginning of the BacTory program 14 PhD students have been engaged in the development of the project through their educational and research activities. Six projects were started within the area of Discovery covering: 1) biosynthesis of anti-viral and anti-microbial compounds based on isolation of relevant genomic materials from soil and aquatic microbiomes, and 2) identification of novel regulatory elements (small RNA and protein molecules) useful in cell factory design. Metabolic engineering projects comprised three projects concerning development of highly efficient genetic tools for bacterial strain designs.

The aim of these projects was to solve severe bottlenecks in genetic engineering processes including such that are directed towards membrane proteins. Finally, five projects addressed important Production issues. One project covered design of biosensors to monitor population heterogeneity and two were directed towards production of important volatile building block chemicals. Separation of biosynthesis activity from biomass growth was the theme of another project is this group.

Of the 14 PhD students who were enrolled in the BacTory research and education program 12 have successfully defended their PhD theses. The remaining 2 will defend in a very near future and have their theses approved for defense. In total the BacTory program thus provided a DTU PhD degree to all enrolled PhD students.

The research projects in the BacTory program have so far resulted in the production of 22 published papers in international journals, 19 submissions to international journals and 16 manuscripts are still in preparation. Four patent application has been submitted. Seven of the 12 PhDs have already been offered jobs – 5 as postdocs in Denmark or abroad, and 2 in Danish Biotec companies.

The BacTory program was the first coherent PhD program in the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Sustainability (CfB), which is a DTU affiliated research center for metabolic engineering and development of sustainable production of chemicals based on microbial cell factories.

The impact of the BacTory program has been impressive, and as a direct consequence DTU has now established a CfB based PhD school for a further continuation of the objectives of BacTory.

In summary, BacTory has now finished its activities resulting in the education of 14 PhDs with expertise in biosustainable research and biotechnology development. It is expected that more than 50 international papers will eventually document this research, and the 14 PhDs will be further trained in academia and industry to eventually take on important tasks in societal development by implementing bio-based approaches towards more sustainable productions of chemicals and drugs in the future.

Project website:

Professor Søren Molin
DTU Biosustain