Genetic engineering to bio-produce goods

By contrast to fundamental research, applied research consists in using scientific theories to create new techniques and technologies to be integrated in various industries. The aim is to generate new products or services.

Applied research using genetic engineering falls into the wider field of Biotechnology. « Biotechnology » (or Biotech) means any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use[1]. Depending on the domain of application biotechnologies can been classified according to three colors: green, red and white.

[1]  Text of the CBD. CBD.int. Retrieved on March 20, 2013.

Microorganisms, like yeast (picture) or micro-algae can be engineered to bio-produce various compounds to be used as material or drugs.

Green Biotechnology generally applies to agricultural processes involving plants or animals. In this field, genetic engineering has initially been perceived as a way to develop more environmentally friendly solutions than traditional industrial agriculture. For example, scientists ambitioned to create insect-resisting plants[1], thus reducing the need to use chemical pesticide in their ecosystem. However, actual development and use of genetically modified crops or strains are feeding considerable debate. Other less controversial applications of genetic engineering in green biotech may include improvement of animal welfare, production of pharmaceutical or biofuels and bioremediation.

Red Biotechnology defines the use of biotechnology in the medical and pharmaceutical industries, and health preservation. Several biological drugs are routinely produced as recombinant proteins using genetically modified cell lines grown in industrial fermenters. Several examples include Insulin to treat diabetes, Growth hormone to treat growth deficiency or Coagulation factors to treat hemophilia. There is also a growing interest for Therapeutic antibodies to treat diseases such as cancer (i.e. Herceptin) or immunological disorders. Drug discovery pipelines are filled with bio-compounds developed as complement or alternative to chemical drugs. At last, gene therapy, that can be described as genome repair medicine, cas be considered as one particular aspect of the red biotechnology.

White Biotechnology, or industrial biotechnology, is biotechnology applied to industrial processes. Genetic engineering of an organism, usually a microorganism (bacteria, yeast, micro-algae) aims to make this organism producing a useful compound for industrial purpose. This can be achieved by modifying the initial metabolism of the chosen organism, acting on its endogenous enzymes, or introducing new genes (transgenes) in its genome. Examples of bio-products are numerous and growing, such as fuel additives[2], stains for cloth industry[3] or bio-based polymers to replace plastics[4]. Modified micro-organisms are cultivated in large-scale industrial fermenters or bioreactors (up to 20.000 liters per unit) that can be grouped in larger plants known as Biorefinery. Some expected virtues of white biotechnology are to consume fewer resources and to generate fewer wastes than traditional (e.g. petrochemistry) processes used to produce industrial goods.

[1] Vaeck, M; et al. (1987). « Transgenic plants protected from insect attack ». Nature. 328 (6125): 33–37. Bibcode:1987Natur.328…33V. doi:10.1038/328033a0

[2] https://www.global-bioenergies.com/

[3] https://www.pili.bio/

[4] https://www.metabolic-explorer.com/polymers/

Given the variety of applications of genetic engineering for industrial purposes (e.g. biological system, production setup…), it is easy to understand that the molecular tools (i.e. DNA vectors) required for each application will display specific features. Possible combinations of genetic features are tremendously numerous. E-zyvec expertise is brought to scientist to help them designing and testing the fittest ones for their project.