“Biomanufacturing isn’t just about making our current materials more cheaply,” says John Cumbers, a biologist and founder of SynBioBeta, an activity hub for synthetic biology start-up companies. “It is also about bringing incredible new products to market that outperform the best products that conventional chemistry can give us now. By learning from and building upon the diversity that nature has given us, we can make a better product in a better way.”
Nearly all of biomanufacturing is based on fermentation, a process that has been used for thousands of years on products like bread and beer. Vaccines are often developed using yeast organisms in a tightly controlled fermentation process. Bacteria and fungi can be genetically engineered to produce large concentrations of desired biomolecules through fermentation. Lionel Clark, professor of bioengineering at Imperial College of London says, “The sustainable production of molecules from biomass feedstocks as the component building blocks of future medicines, chemicals, materials and liquid fuels – exploiting the untapped potential stored within millions of tons of biological waste and residual materials – is core to the future circular economy.”
Reduced Energy Use
Biomanufacturing relies on naturally occurring processes and reactions to produce an output that would normally be produced through a synthetic process. Generally all manufacturing is based on the use of energy, such as heat, to change the form of something. Biomanufacturing greatly reduces this energy requirement in favor of production through natural methods. This energy use reduction lowers the cost of the end product benefitting manufacturers, consumers and the environment. EnginZyme, a Swedish biotech company, has developed a new technology similar to fermentation that can improve the manufacturing on a range of products. “Our platform mimics fermentation, but at a 40% reduction in capital expenditures and a 70% reduction in energy,” says CEO Karim Cassimjee.
The technological advancements fueled by biomanufacturing is making it the preferred method of production. High performance bio-electronics are ending up in the next smartphone, laptop, watch or TV not simply because they are made with biology but because they work better. Biomanufacturing is bringing new products to market that outperform the best products that conventional chemistry can give us now. Living tissues can be printed in exact organ shapes with 3D bioprinters, using bio-inks that are rich in cells. This technology is advancing so rapidly that it should be ready for clinical testing within a few years.
It is an exciting time to be part of the biotech industry. Interested in hiring or finding a new position? Contact Smith Hanley Associates’ Biostatistics and Medical Affairs Recruiter, Nihar Parikh at [email protected].