Engineering Competitive Advantage in Industrial Microbial Bioprocesses
Microbial contamination is a liability for industrial bioprocesses affecting yield, productivity, and operability. Mitigation often increases overall cost or results in undesired process steps, such as antibiotic use. For scale-up of new bioprocesses, contamination can be the single largest barrier to successful operation.
Traditional control methods, such as sterilization, operation at low pH, or application of antimicrobial compounds kill or inhibit undesired microbes. The ROBUST principle focuses instead on creating an environment where only the desired microorganism has access to essential growth nutrients, leaving contaminants unable to reproduce. To create such an environment, we have engineered metabolic pathways that enable degradation of nitrogen and phosphorous containing chemicals not commonly encountered in nature. When cultured in media with the desired chemical as sole nitrogen or phosphorous source, engineered organisms rapidly outcompete contaminants, resulting in a broadly applicable alterative to antibiotic use for creation of selective fermentation environments.