The long-term viability and well-being of our society depends on the development of truly sustainable and energy efficient biotechnology processes to convert chemicals and fuels. Over the past ten years, scientific and technological advances have established biocatalysts, metabolic engineering, and synthetic biology as practical, energy efficient and environmentally sound approaches to replace many petroleum-based industrial processes and products. Despite this progress, the number of robust cost-effective biotechnologies in the marketplace remains small and has not kept pace with the growing number of potential industry-relevant enzyme and metabolic technologies discovered through genome and metagenome analyses.
The NSERC Industrial Biocatalysis Network’s principal investigators represent a deep and broad range of expertise from three major research universities. The researchers have extensive expertise in areas ranging from protein production and enzymology to metabolic pathway engineering, bioinformatics and optimization.
The NSERC Industrial Biocatalysis Network (IBN) will speed up the process of turning this enormous bioprocess potential into new value added industry biotechnology. The IBN’s objective is to create a coordinated multicentre biocatalysis platform that integrates the collective resources of three major environmental genome and metagenome research programs and cutting-edge biotechnology facilities from across Canada. The network will look to develop biotechnologies to serve a broad range of industry needs, including food, feed, synthetic chemistry, environmental remediation, forestry, mining and energy. In collaboration with industry partners, three main areas of focus have been identified: complex carbohydrates, polymer precursors and bioactive metabolites of fungi.
Over the past decade, Canada has invested heavily in research and development of this area of biotechnology. Our team of nine experts from across Canada is forming a network that will capitalize on the collective resources generated by three major recent genomics initiatives: BEEM, Genozymes, and PhytoMetaSyn. These projects yielded an immense quantity of confirmed and hypothetical enzymes, which we will mine for industrial applications as part of our investigations.
Our goal is to discover enzymes and develop industrial micro-organisms that synthesize chemicals and biofuels from renewable and low-cost carbon sources instead of petroleum.