Biosustainability is an important goal for humanity given the urgency of our global challenges and the emerging field of synthetic biology provides a powerful opportunity to make it a reality. One of the most promising developments in synthetic biology that supports global biosustainability is the concept of cell factories. By redesigning genomes and cellular metabolism, one can create microbial (e.g., yeast) or mammalian cells that produce a wide range of useful chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
The CelESTial project will enable a massive upgrade of the ECSB and initiation of an outstanding industry-driven ecosystem we call the Estonian Centre for Synthetic Biology and Biosustainability (ECSBB). The collaboration between ECSB and CFB will be fundamental for upgrading ECSB into a leading European research centre of excellence with focus on developing technologies in synthetic biology and cell factory design. In the figurebelow, we describe the major building blocks of the CelESTial conceptintegrated as an ecosystem: Estonian centre for Syntehtic Biology and Biosustainability (ECSBB). The ECSB Industry Association and the Biosustainability Training and Public Awareness Centre will be initiated by the ERA Chair project GasFermTEC. The “DTU Biosustain” is the legal name for the Teaming partner: the Novo Nordisk Foundation Centre for Biosustainability (CFB).
The Teaming project will develop new models for interaction between industry and academy. As only very large companies can afford to build a bioprocessing pilot plant and keep the team of scientist around it, the initiative would serve as a collective project providing acces to companies of various levels. On the basis to a “Triple Helix Model for Biorefineries” depicted in Figure. relying on three inputs: in-vestment from public funds, investment from industry and local biomass as a resource. For a successful biorefining industry the regional research and development infrastructure should have three inputs: investment from public funds, investment from industry and local biomass as a resource.
Synthetic biology applied to the design of cell factories could provide a sustainable alternative to the existing oil shale-based chemical industry, a distinctive feature in Estonia. High level of oil shale-based production can make the industry and Estonia as a whole vulnerable to price volatility on global markets. The less capital-intensive bioproduction, technologically founded on the research of ECSB, is seen as the most suitable complement to the existing industrial capacity. Bio-production is an environmentally sustainable way for producing chemicals where the future holds a promise to utilize locally produced biomass and industrial by-products as substrates for the processes. A new research team will be established at the ECSB to address the possibilities to use different non-food local substrate resources (including a syngas platform) for microbial cell factories.
Estonian Centre of Synthetic Biology is aiming to become an important centre of excellence in cell factory design and will be focused on using local lignocellulosic biomass from forest industry as substrate for cell factories producing high value chemicals.