bio innovations

Synthetic biology as a source of innovation

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Biotechnology, which exploits the properties of life for the design of new products or services, will provide innovative solutions to environmental problems by contributing in particular to the preservation of fossil resources. Biofuels, biosourced plastics, bioprocesses for cleaning up water and soil pollution, more sustainable human and animal food, agriculture less dependent on fertilizers and pesticides... Biotechs constitute a breeding ground for innovation to improve our environment and our living conditions. A new way of production, biological rather than chemical. This was the conclusion of a visit to Genopole® at the end of February by Chantal Jouanno, Vice President of the Ile-de-France region in charge of ecology and sustainable development, who was able to see for herself the enormous potential of biotechnologies in terms of sustainable development.
 
Ahe environmental dimension of Genopole (1) is less well known than its health dimension. Chantal Jouanno, Vice-President of the Ile-de-France Region in charge of ecology and sustainable development, was able to get a clearer picture of this during her visit on Friday February 24th. She was welcomed by Marianne Duranton, President of Genopole® and Regional Councillor, and Jean-Marc Grognet, Genopole®'s Chief Executive Officer.
He explained the growing economic stakes of biotechnologies in industrial sectors. And the applications in the environmental field are broad: treatment of effluent pollution control, manufacture of biomaterials, biofuels from renewable rather than fossil fuels, etc.
 
 
Synthetic biology, a discipline at the crossroads of biology and computer science, is a determining factor in the development of these environmental applications. It consists of associating a set of genes in a cell to produce a molecule of interest for industry. With synthetic biology, it will be possible to obtain molecules of industrial interest, identical to those of petrochemical origin, via living micro-organisms (bacteria, yeasts, cells, etc.) whose metabolic pathways have been reprogrammed.
 
Thanks to biotechnology, a whole section of the industry is undergoing change. Producing more ecologically, using renewable resources, taking different paths from the petro-sourced paths of conventional chemistry, consuming less energy, diversifying supplies to cushion raw material price fluctuations... we can understand the growing interest of industrialists. These new tools could revitalize French industry and create new jobs.

The example of Global Bioenergies

Marc Delcourt, CEO of Global Bioenergies, underlined his company's ambition: to become a pillar of the energy transition. Global Bioenergies is "rewriting the software of bacteria" to lead them to produce from sugars (beet molasses, agricultural and forestry waste) a petroleum derivative, isobutene. This bio-based isobutene will be used as a raw material for the manufacture of gasoline, organic glass, kerosene, paints, etc. The company, listed on the Alternext market, has steadily moved up a growth ladder: research and then laboratory proof of concept developed at Genopole®, a pilot unit in Germany, and a commercial plant planned by 2020 near Reims or Troyes.
After beet molasses, straw and wood chips, Global Bioenergies has the ambition, in the longer term, to use industrial gases, for example, the smoke from steelworks chimneys. The objective is to use resources that are both less and less expensive and more and more beneficial from an environmental point of view.

WatchFrog's proposal to measure endocrine disruptors

The issue of endocrine disruptors is at the heart of current events. WatchFrog offers biological tests to measure their presence, particularly in industrial effluents. Gregory Lemkine, CEO, explains the use of small fish or amphibian larvae, with a tiny size of 2 mm, not considered as animals by the legislator in agreement with laboratory animal defence associations because at their very early embryonic development stage, devoid of a nervous system, they do not feel any suffering.
These larvae, placed in contact with the water being analysed, will translate their reaction by emitting a fluorescence thanks to a genetic marker that will not have required any modification of the genome. The stronger the fluorescence, the more the endocrine disruptor will be present in the effluent. "It's the same hormones that control the development of a frog larvae as it does the development of a baby's brain, says Gregory Lemkine. The only way to evaluate a disturbance in hormonal balance is to use a biological test.

Ynsect acts for responsible animal nutrition

Ynsect, which houses its Ynstitute R&D center in a Genopole® company hotel, is based on a common-sense idea: insects are an integral part of the diets of fish and other animals, yet they are not used in animal nutrition. Nathalie Bérézina, Ynsect's R&D Director, explained that Europe has, however, just opened up a regulatory lock by authorizing the use of insects in feed for farmed fish last December. This validates the relevance of Ynsect's technology: breeding and processing larvae of the Ténébrion molitor beetle to produce flours and oils for animal nutrition.
Ynsect inaugurated its Ynsite site in the Jura on the same Friday. A technological and commercial demonstration unit, Ynsite should enable the production of several hundred tons of insect proteins per year.

Innovative industrial applications

The National Sequencing Centre (CEA), which has sequenced the genome of wheat, banana, rice and vines, is now mainly devoted to the metagenomics of environmental microorganisms, in particular the plankton collected by the Tara Oceans team and the bacteria involved in water purification.
 
The iSSB lab, The Institute for Systems Biology and Synthesis, ranked 3rd in Europe and 9th in the world (CVT study) develops fundamental methodologies for the engineering of biological systems, particularly for industrial applications with a lower environmental impact.
 
Metemis develops miniature chemical sensors for the measurement of ions or molecules in liquid media. The company has a catalogue of ten sensors including phosphate for NPK measurement. These measurements in situ are aimed at reducing the amount of fertilizer or nutrients in AgTech.
 
Glowee is a cleantech start-up that is developing a breakthrough illumination system using the bioluminescent properties of marine organisms such as squid. Its raw material is introduced into shells of varying shapes to illuminate shop windows, street furniture, etc.

 
Abolis has the ambition to make chemistry more environmentally friendly by offering industrialists micro-organisms capable of producing molecules of interest from renewable resources by fermentation. The start-up is targeting the food, fragrance and flavor markets in particular.
 
 
Anova-Plus develops field DNA/RNA tests for the detection of GMOs, pathogenic and sometimes toxic microorganisms, particularly in vines and field crop species, in order to limit the use of pesticides and choose the most suitable varieties.
 
 
Biomethods (Arbiom) uses non-food plant material (ligno-cellulosic biomass) for the production of bio-based fuels, materials and chemical compounds. The company is thus committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating jobs in rural areas.
 
Innovafeed offers insect flours, oils and bioacitives for the nutrition of farmed fish. Its R&D focuses in particular on the formulation of the breeding substrate by integrating new plant raw materials that are currently not valorized and thus reduce Europe's protein deficit (70% imports).
 
 
Algama uses the nutritional potential (proteins, trace elements, vitamins) of microalgae to produce new foods. Its Springwave drink with spirulina extracts has anti-oxidant properties. In its "mayo-based" vegetable sauces, "chlorella" algae replaces the egg.
 
 
 

 
(1) Genopole has several master cards to simulate innovation in the environmental sector. Firstly, synthetic biology, which it spearheaded in France.
 Genopole was the first:
-to grasp its interest on a fundamental level but also on an industrial level since synthetic biology opens up more ecological production routes.
- to develop a master's degree in synthetic biology on a European scale, taught at the University of Evry Val-d'Essonne.
- to finance the Absynth advanced technology platform used by the iSSB, a reference laboratory in the field.
 
To go further

Book "Making Life - Where's Synthetic Biology Going?  "by Dorothée Browaeys and Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent - Edition Seuil - Science ouverte, 2011

 

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