19-ERACoBioTech- 33 SyCoLim

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Bioengineering


ERA CoBioTech seek the transition from a petroleum-based economy to a bio-based, circular economy, which can be achieved by the development of novel biotechnologies such as microbiological bioproduction processes.
The aim of this project (SyCoLim) is to produce high-value chemicals (with applications as pharmaceuticals, medicines, fragrances, nutraceuticals or cosmetics) from waste raw materials (recycling glycerol, the by-product of biodiesel industries). In order to achieve this objective, synthetic microbial communities between yeast and bacteria will be created. These communities will be engineered to present advantages over monocultures, such as division of labour, higher adaptability and robustness or an expanded metabolic network. The bioprocess carried out by the best strains generated will be scaled up in industrial conditions in the facilities of our industrial partner. Therefore, the project will help the lab-to-market transition of the sustainable production of valuable compounds and will combine this with the exploration of novel synthetic biology and microbial communities' methodologies that have the potential to be applicable to other bioprocesses, thus facilitating the global transition towards the bioeconomy.
The partners of SyCoLim has been selectively chosen to be the best fit possible to the rationale of the project, in terms not only of skills and methodologies but also in previous experience in synthetic microbial communities. Thus, together, the academic partners are world-leading researchers in yeast and bacteria engineering, in using synthetic biology to create microbial communities, in cutting-edge analytics (including metabolomics and proteomics) and in modelling communities. In addition, the industrial partner is one of the few biotech companies with expertise in commercial processes using engineered microbial communities. The scientific work packages will be developed in parallel to a Responsible Research an Innovation plan intended to evaluate the environmental and societal aspect of the process and it will guide and be guided by the experimental plans and results. SyCoLim is also committed to strict ethics and data management standards, embracing the FAIR principles. The project is accompanied by a solid Communication and Dissemination plan to reach different stakeholders and maximise the impact of the project's outcomes.
The project will be carefully managed to optimise equal participation of the partners, appropriate budgets, gender balance, risk assessment, back up strategies, efficient communication and personnel and material transfer between teams.

Technical Summary

The biggest challenge of the biotechnological industry is to allow the transition to a bio-based economy. This transition can be accelerated by a sustainable microbial production of fuels and chemicals. However, not many bioprocesses reach the market due to the elevated production costs. Therefore, reducing the cost of bio-based production is essential and can be achieved by addressing the bio-manufacturing of high-value products from low-cost raw materials.
In this project, we aim at exploiting synthetic biology tools to create synthetic microbial communities for the bioproduction of natural products. In order to achieve this goal, the partners (Imperial College London, CSIC, Charite-Universitatsmedizin Berlin and AciesBio) will join forces to develop novel tools and strains with industrial applications.

Planned Impact

The outcomes of the proposal are expected to have a substantial impact, for example in academic research, technological and economic development, biotechnological industry, sustainability and environment, and society. In this section, we summarise some key aspects of the expected impact, although due to its importance, the impacts and potential of the project have been described throughout the different documents and sections of this proposal.

All this will bring impact and added value for the European Research and Innovation in academia and industry. The project connects research groups from 4 European countries that are not currently collaborating together but whose expertise perfectly complements each other to achieve success in this proposal, facilitating the lab-to-market transition. This consortium will impact the career development of young researchers and a biotech SME. The research proposed here is using cutting edge and innovative science and techniques beyond the state of the art and its outcomes are expected to be published in very high impact journals as well as world patents. New production processes developed in the project will have an impact on the European economy as valorisation of biodiesel industries and the generation of novel bio-based starting molecules that can be used by the chemical industries to produce a variety of compounds with a myriad of applications.

The detailed TRL plan document explains how an increase in 2 levels of TRL will be achieved during the project. This increase, which leads to a test of the technology in industrial conditions, will have an impact on technological and economic development.

The project will impact on commercial partners and end-users. More directly, the partner Acies Bio will participate in the development of the technology and will benefit of the technological innovations. This will allow them to expand their exploitation capabilities and commercialise new bioprocesses. This capability will impact positively the positioning of Acies Bio on the industrial biotechnology market and benefit European and worldwide flavour and fragrance industries, such as Guivodan, Firmenich, Frutarom, IFF, etc. In addition, this technology will set up a methodology for using synthetic communities in biotechnology that will provide essential know-how for the implementation of novel strategies and production lines (for example, other derived products from the mevalonate pathway, like carotenoids and diterpenes), and thus expand the post-project impact of this work.

The project will have an impact on the sustainability of biotechnological research, which will be favoured by a solid Data Management (DM) plan. The DM plan, described in a separate document, will champion the responsible and efficient use of results generated in the scope of the project. It will have a positive impact on the scientific community and industry by creating datasets using FAIR principles.


10 25 50
Description We have created synthetic microbial communities able to communicate to each other and to distribute tasks to maximise the production of compounds of interest
We have created a bioinformatic tool that is open to be used by the RNA community
Exploitation Route The companie AciesBio will be testing our strains in industrial conditions
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description The company AciesBio is testing some of the strains produced in this project in their industrial facilities. They are also assessing using Life Cycle Assessement the feasibility and environmental impact of these new processes.
First Year Of Impact 2022
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description Podcast: The Living Revolution
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact improved understanding on how industrial biotechnology can help the green economy
URL https://linktr.ee/thelivingrevolution
Description Promotional video
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Contribution to new or Improved professional practice
Impact convincing people of the benefit of synthetic biology in a sustainable society
Description Bio-based Industries Joint
Amount € 6,250,541 (EUR)
Funding ID 101022370 
Organisation European Commission H2020 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 04/2021 
End 04/2024
Description ERC starting grant
Amount € 1,500,000 (EUR)
Funding ID 949080 
Organisation European Research Council (ERC) 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 03/2021 
End 04/2026
Description skind microbial devices
Amount € 2,718,000 (EUR)
Funding ID 101098826 
Organisation Pompeu Fabra University 
Sector Academic/University
Country Spain
Start 02/2023 
End 01/2027
Description Collaboration with Markus Ralser 
Organisation Charité - University of Medicine Berlin
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have worked on a HTP experiment to screen yeast variants with complementary features that can be used for bioproduction and division of labour
Collaborator Contribution The Ralser lab provided support with the design of the automated experiments using lab robots as well as data analysis and mass spec characterisation or metabolites of interest.
Impact Article under review in Nature Chemical Biology
Start Year 2021
Description Collaboration with Victor de Lorenzo's lab 
Organisation Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
Department National Center for Biotechnology (CNB)
Country Spain 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We are exchanging strains and plasmids
Collaborator Contribution We are exchanging strains and plasmids They are producing Antibodies for us
Impact -Construction of strains -Construction of plasmids -Meetings
Start Year 2020
Description ERA CoBioTech meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact all the funded project from ERA Cobiotech presented their project in a meeting that lasted a week.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
Description Kick off meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact 10 people attended the kick off meeting and the first results of the project were presented and the future directions discussed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
Description Presentation in GreenWin conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact A conference with companies and academics where I present the progress of my projects
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.greenwin.be/en/news/consult/204/meet-dr-rodrigo-ledesma-amaro-from-imperial-college-lond...
Description Talk at Oxford Synthetic Biology Network 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A talk about my research projects for the Synthetic Biology network at Oxford
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL http://synbio-oxford.org/events.html
Description Talk in Talant Acadmy 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Opportunity to present my research to other young academics in order to make partnerships to apply for EU funding
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021