A synthetic biology-based approach to engineering triterpenoid saponins and optimisation for industrial applications


Saponins have already found industrial application as foaming agents in the beverage, food and cosmetics industries. However, the breadth of triterpene saponin structures has not been fully explored or exploited, and their application limited by accessibility and availability from plant extracts, depite broad-ranging physical and bioactive properties documented in the literature. This project will demonstrate the optimisation of triterpene saponin structures for efficacy and functionality for applications in the chemical industries. Saponin derivatives will be engineered using a synthetic biology tool kit and metabolic pathway expression in a Nicotiana benthamiana host. Extracted saponins will be evaluated for physical properties and in application screens. Structure-function rules will be built to iteratively optimise the saponin structures for functionality. The options for a biotechnology platform, scale-up and commercial production of the lead saponins will be assessed.

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

Unilever U.K. Central Resources Limited, Bedford £223,183 £ 139,496


John Innes Centre, United Kingdom
Croda Europe Limited, EAST YORKSHIRE £86,834 £ 56,442


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