February 16

Researchers Demonstrate Feasibility of Biomanufacturing with Synthesized Sugars


BioP2P Staff

The supply of conventional biomass sugars for biomanufacturing is limited relative to the huge demand for the production of fuels and chemical products. That’s led to concerns that the expansion of industrial biomanufacturing could create competition for food crops.

A new study from researchers at Osaka University and collaborators published in the journal ChemBioChem report on how they developed an innovative biomanufacturing technology using chemically synthesized, non-natural sugars as a raw material to address this concern.

Using bacteria, the researchers succeeded in fermentation production of lactate using synthesized sugar solutions as the sole substrate. They said this is the first case in the world in which biomanufacturing was conducted using synthesized sugar as a raw material. They said the approach will enable the procurement of sustainable raw sugar that does not compete with food and is expected to further expand biomanufacturing.

Biomanufacturing is being embraced as an effective means addressing climate change caused by the use of fossil fuels. But the production of the main raw material in current biomanufacturing relies on agricultural processes such as corn cultivation. There is concern, however, that biomanufacturing will compete to use crops that could be used to feed people as available first-generation biomass cannot satisfy the enormous demand for the production of fuels and chemical products.

The production of sugar through large-scale agriculture also requires sizeable land use, and the consumption of depletable resources, such as fresh water, nitrogen, and phosphorus. In addition, the run-off from agriculture production eutrophication and reduced biodiversity.

The researchers said chemically synthesized sugar that does not depend on agriculture and the application of the obtained sugar to bioprocesses is at least 100 times faster than agricultural process, require 1/1300 the amount of water, 1/600 of land, and no need for nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen.

Nevertheless, chemically synthesized sugars are mixtures that contain compounds with structures that do not exist in nature. That has created challenges using synthesized non-natural sugar solutions for bioprocesses, such as the presence of factors that inhibit the growth of bacteria.

In this study, the research group established a stable cultivation method. They also identified growth inhibitory factors in the synthesized sugar solution and showed that they can be removed by secondary catalytic treatment.

The results of this research have demonstrated that chemically synthesized sugar can be used as a new raw material for biomanufacturing. The use of chemically synthesized sugar, which can be produced at high rate and on-site, is expected to solve the problems of raw material supply in biomanufacturing, such as competition with food, regional dependence, and large-scale use of depletable resources, and is expected to be a game changer in this area.

Read the press release here or the full study here.


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