We have chosen two challenge areas in which to test our new technologies.
The first is healthcare, specifically the manufacture of medicinal compounds and therapeutic proteins. These are already largely made using biological systems, but the existing processes are expensive and complicated. Also, in the future, it would be more efficient to make these medicines as and when they are needed (point-of-care manufacture).
Our goals are to make simpler, more cost effective, point-of-care manufacturing systems using a combination of the above mentioned platform technologies: enzyme microreactors, specialised cells, and biosensors.
One of our research projects in this area that is yielding fantastic results is the development of vesicle bioreactors for protein synthesis.
Our second target is to produce bulk chemicals without the need for petroleum inputs. To do this we are adjusting our manufacturing techniques for renewable inputs (such as biomass) and developing new processes that use biology and/or environmentally friendly chemistry to do the conversions. Synthetic biology has never been attempted on such a large scale.
Our challenge is to adapt our parts, devices, and systems to operate at this level. The overall outcome will be novel, cost effective, energy efficient, and sustainable routes to therapeutics and chemicals.