New platform boosts speed of sustainable biomanufacturing
“iPROBE stands to help scientists identify the best sets of enzymes for a variety of sustainable chemicals and bring them into manufacturing at scale. We envision this cell-free system as an engine to help realize the future bioeconomy.”
Michael Jewett, SQI faculty member
SQI faculty member Michael Jewett has led the development of a new rapid-prototyping system to accelerate the design of biological systems, reducing the time to produce sustainable biomanufacturing products from months to weeks.
As global challenges like climate change, population growth and energy security intensify, the need increases for low-cost biofuels and bioproducts — like medicines and materials — to be produced using sustainable resources. Industrial biotechnology, which uses microbial cellular factories to harness enzyme sets that can convert molecules to desirable chemical products, has shown potential to address these needs. However, designing, building and optimizing these pathways in cells remains complex and slow, unable to keep up with the dynamic shifts in needs.
The new platform, called in vitro Prototyping and Rapid Optimization of Biosynthetic Enzymes (iPROBE), provides a quick and powerful design-build-test framework to discover optimal biosynthetic pathways for cellular metabolic engineering that could impact a range of industries (or issues) from clean energy to consumer products.
“For the first time, we show that cell-free platforms can inform and accelerate the design of industrial cellular systems,” said Jewett, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence at the McCormick School of Engineering, who directs Northwestern’s Center for Synthetic Biology. “We accomplished in approximately two weeks what traditionally would have taken six to 12 months. Our findings will help accelerate the pace at which we can enable sustainable biomanufacturing practices.”
The platform leverages Northwestern’s leadership in cell-free synthetic biology and comes into play in three recently published studies, each led by Jewett.
“iPROBE stands to help scientists identify the best sets of enzymes for a variety of sustainable chemicals and bring them into manufacturing at scale,” Jewett said. “We envision this cell-free system as an engine to help realize the future bioeconomy.”
This article was first published on the McCormick School of Engineering website. Read the full story.