Environmental Biotechnology Innovation Centre

Lead Research Organisation: CRANFIELD UNIVERSITY
Department Name: School of Water, Energy and Environment


We are embarking on an exciting research initiative aimed at addressing urgent environmental challenges. Our focus is on using cutting-edge techniques from synthetic biology, biotechnology, computation modelling and engineering science to develop innovative solutions in bioengineering and bioremediation. Through genetic engineering, we can modify the genetic material of organisms, making them more effective at removing specific pollutants from the environment. This includes targeting substances like plastic waste, hydrocarbons, and metals. By enhancing the natural abilities of these organisms, we can find more sustainable and cost-effective ways to clean up our planet.
Another aspect of our research involves metabolic engineering, where we modify the chemical pathways inside organisms. By introducing new enzymes or optimizing existing ones, we can create "microbial factories" that efficiently break down harmful chemicals. This helps in the safe disposal of pollutants and contributes to a cleaner environment. We are also exploring the development of biosensors and biodevices that can detect and respond to environmental pollutants in real-time. These devices act as environmental monitors, allowing us to identify and address issues promptly. This rapid response helps in protecting ecosystems and human health. Additionally, we are using advanced genome editing technologies to precisely modify the DNA of organisms. This allows us to create entirely new organisms or enhance the functions of existing ones. By doing so, we can design organisms that are better suited for environmental tasks like converting waste into valuable resources. We will collaborate with experts from many fields, including our 13 project partners spanning the water and waste management as well as the environmental biotechnology sectors, to drive innovation and develop practical applications that address environmental challenges. By combining our knowledge and resources, we hope to make a significant impact in pollution reduction, waste management and resource recovery. Through transparent communication and responsible research practices, we aim to gain public trust and support for our work. We understand the importance of ethical considerations and regulatory compliance in deploying these technologies safely. We are also dedicated to conducting research that benefits all members of society, taking into consideration the social, economic and environmental impacts of our work. By embracing equity, diversity and integrity as integral components of our research approach, we strive to create positive and inclusive change in our scientific community and society as a whole. Together, we can work towards a more sustainable and equitable future for everyone. Ultimately, by harnessing the power of science and technology, we can find innovative ways to protect our environment and ensure a better and more sustainable world for future generations.

Technical Summary

The proposed research aims to advance the field of environmental biotechnology through the integration of synthetic biology techniques and interdisciplinary approaches. The research hub consists of four technical pillars: 1) Engineering DNA aims to develop rapid plasmid assembly systems for engineering environmentally relevant microbes. Modular cloning suites will be adapted to facilitate efficient plasmid assembly, incorporating CRISPR-Cas9 systems, selectable markers, and promoters/terminators for precise gene expression. This will enable precise genetic modifications in a range of bacteria. 2) Biomolecular Engineering focuses on manipulating individual biomolecules to achieve enhanced functionalities. It involves producing functional macromolecules using natural and synthetic components and designing intricate circuits and pathways. The goal is to engineer biomolecules to meet specific functional requirements and explore a wide range of applications. 3) Host and Consortia Engineering aims to develop robust and flexible synthetic biology systems for diverse biochemical reactions. This includes adapting single-cell hosts, engineering traits in multicellular organisms, and manipulating microbial consortia. Overcoming challenges related to biofilm formation, stability, scalability, and pollutant capture is essential for successful application in wastewater and waste treatments. 4) The Data Science/Mind Map System Biology pillar integrates data science, modelling, artificial intelligence, and automation to support the design, build, test, learn (DBTL) methodology. It involves developing computational infrastructure for predicting design outcomes, optimising manufacturing processes, and integrating diverse datasets using specialised software suites, such as Infobiotics Workbench, Synbiotics, and NUFEB, facilitate computer-aided design for the simulation of microbial communities, and metabolic engineering.


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