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(BBSRC DTP CASE) Microbial chassis engineering for next generation hydrocarbon biofuels manufacturing

Project Description

The development of economically viable microbial biofuels is a consequence of global concerns about reducing carbon emissions, dwindling fossil fuel supply and the development of cost effective renewable and sustainable bio-based strategies. The ultimate biofuel strategy would comprise the scalable production of a transportable clean burning hydrocarbon fuel from a microbial chassis cultivated on renewable waste biomaterials with minimal downstream processing. This requires a robust carbon neutral industrial microbial chassis, capable of growth on abundant, renewable waste materials with low capitol outlay and running costs. This is key to the commercial realisation of many of the core research programmes in the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB). This PhD studentship contributes to this vision by the development of an innovative fermentation platform for hydrocarbon biofuel production by engineering an existing robust industrial microbial host.
Project Aims: This project seeks to rationally engineer an existing robust industrial microorganism to increase its commercial potential as a host chassis for bio-based hydrocarbon biofuels and high value chemicals. It builds on exciting new developments in E. coli hydrocarbon biofuels production. Primary targets for alternative chassis re-engineering include the incorporation of efficient hydrocarbon precursor transport systems, upregulation of precursor biosynthesis and in vivo synthon production. This will involve the development of additional host-specific metabolic engineering tools to enable efficient genomic rewriting and/or stable plasmid-borne constructs under the control of inducible/constitutive promoters. The student will get experience of state-of-the-art synthetic biology methods in microbial strain engineering, biological parts engineering and characterisation, biofuels production through laboratory fermentations and the use of innovative mass spectrometry methods to sample product build up in the headspace of fermentations. Additional objectives will focus on the optimisation of carbon dioxide capture technology. This is important to the development of next generation biofuels, enabling a leap forward towards the ultimate goal of zero carbon motoring. The PhD student will be based in the MIB, and will be co-supervised by Professor Nigel Scrutton and Dr Helen Toogood. Additional scientific/technical support will be provided by Dr Kat Hollywood (Senior Experimental Officer) from the Synthetic Biology Research Centre (SYNBIOCHEM),1 with industrial support from Mr Michael Smith at C3 Biotech. The student will be trained in broad aspects of ‘wet’ biotechnology, including synthetic biology, microbial strain bioengineering, molecular biology, analytics and fermentation design/implementations.1 This project would suit individuals interested in future careers in bioengineering, sustainable biofuels production, and industrial biotechnology.

Entry Requirements:
Applications are invited from UK/EU nationals only. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

Funding Notes

This project is to be funded under the BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. If you are interested in this project, please make direct contact with the Principal Supervisor to arrange to discuss the project further as soon as possible. You MUST also submit an online application form - full details on how to apply can be found on the BBSRC DTP website View Website

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.


[1] Bioprocess Biosyst. Eng. 2014, 37, 931
[2] ChemBioChem, 2018, 19, 1036
[3] Nature Communs 2015, 6, 7907
[4] Biophys J 2014, 107, 2195
[5] Communications Biology 2018 1, 66

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