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Sustainable bioconversion of CO2 to industrially valuable solvents

   Department of Applied Sciences

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  Dr Rajesh Bommareddy, Dr T Howard  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This project will blend metabolic engineering strategies and fermentation process development to enable sustainable production of industrially relevant alcohol solvents in gram-scale from CO2. This will demonstrate an industry and academia led joint venture addressing UN sustainability development goals viz. industrial decarbonisation.

With the growing concerns on climate change and emphasis on moving into circular economies from a linear economy, industrial decarbonisation is pivotal for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions as the current chemical manufacturing processes misalign with UN sustainability goals. Biotechnology offers environmentally friendly alternatives to produce fuels and chemicals in a carbon-neutral manner. Sustainable and economically viable bioconversion of CO2 to fuels and commodity chemicals should be realized within the next decade. First generation feedstocks (e.g., sugars) trigger fierce debate on food vs fuel and second-generation biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass suffer from low efficiencies and high cost. Third generation biorefineries aim to utilise microbial cell factories to convert renewable energies and atmospheric CO2 into fuels and chemicals and represent a route for accessing carbon neutral products. CO2 is an ideal feedstock for production of chemicals because it is an inexpensive, nontoxic, and abundant starting material.

This project aims to engineer an autotrophic bacterium for the solvent production from CO2 which is currently produced from petroleum-based feedstocks. The project will combine metabolic engineering strategies (systems and synthetic biology) and gas fermentation processes in screening and characterising different enzymes suitable for the proposed metabolic pathways, draw insights into the metabolism, and propose and test optimised processes for stable and continuous solvent production from CO2 in gram scale. 

The student will experience training in Microbiology, Molecular biology, Biochemistry and Fermentation technology. The project is jointly supervised by Northumbria University, Newcastle University and P&G. The PhD student will take advantage of the interdisciplinary Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment (HBBE, http://bbe.ac.uk/). This is an £8M initiative between Northumbria and Newcastle Universities funded by Research England. The project will benefit from access to world-class facilities and expertise associated at Northumbria and Newcastle Universities. These include: (i) dedicated large new research labs and workshops (ii) a dedicated gas fermentation facility; (iii) a state-of-the art analytics and Multi-Omics Lab capable of advanced analyses via cutting-edge DNA sequencers, including a PacBio Sequel, an Illumina Nextseq 550 System, an Oxford NanoPore GridION. P&G will catapult and advance the bioscience research towards sustainable industrial biomanufacturing process.

How to apply:

  • Candidates wishing to apply for a studentship must apply directly to this E-mail address [Email Address Removed] by 5th Dec 2022 by sending 4 documents:
  1. Current CV: [maximum 2 pages] – this needs to include qualifications & two references.
  2. A personal statement (maximum 500 words).
  3. A completed BISCOP CTP Equal Opportunities Monitoring form
  4. A cover note indicating which project within the CTP you are applying for as their first choice and whether interested in any of the other projects.
  • Name all the documents with your ‘Name and Type of Form’ e.g., Joe Bloggs CV, Joe Bloggs Personal Statement.
  • For more information, please see the Policies & Procedures for applicants.
  • In the meantime, if you have any issues or questions, please contact [Email Address Removed]

More information about the BiSCoP CTP

This studentship is part of the second cohort of the BiSCoP CTP (Bioscience for Sustainable Consumer Products Collaborative Training Partnership), a BBSRC-funded inclusive, collaborative environment for high quality doctoral training that will prepare over 30 students with the knowledge and skills needed for successful careers at the forefront of global bioscience. This will help ensure the UK maintains a leadership position in bioscience with improved translation of frontier research into economic and societal impact.

The BiSCoP CTP will be an outstanding environment for PhD research between Durham, Northumbria, Newcastle and other UK universities, biotech company Prozomix and consumer products company Procter & Gamble. The second cohort of 11 PhD students starting in October 2023 will embark upon a 4-year research training programme with modules in hands-on lean innovation, an Accredited Certificate in Strategic Management and Leadership Practice (a Durham University mini-MBA), Intellectual Property, at least a 3-month placement (P&G UK or USA innovation centre or Prozomix UK) and other events.

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