Development of Bioemulsifier Production to Advance Commercial Explotation Opportunities

Lead Research Organisation: Scottish Association For Marine Science
Department Name: Scottish Association For Marine Science


This proposal aims to exploit a suite of natural emulsifiers (bioemulsifiers) that show exceptional
promise as ingredients and production process agents in industries such as healthcare and food and
beverages. Emulsifier use is widespread because of the need to mix 'oil and water' in many
products. Bioemulsifiers are microbially produced surface-active molecules that are promising
alternatives to the chemically synthesised varieties because they are natural, have potentially lower
toxicities and improved functionality (e.g. foaming, stabilisation; tolerance to extremes of
temperature and pH). This project aims to significantly increase bioemulsifier production to
facilitate commercial exploitation opportunities, by: (i) induction and selection of hyper-producing
mutant strains using non-GM methods; (ii) optimise microbial fermentation; and (iii) improve
recovery and purification processes. Through market research we will identify market opportunities
and potential barriers to commercialization and develop and extend existing collaborations with
interested parties and explore commercially uses for these bioemulsifiers.


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Gutierrez T (2012) Metal binding properties of the EPS produced by Halomonas sp. TG39 and its potential in enhancing trace element bioavailability to eukaryotic phytoplankton. in Biometals : an international journal on the role of metal ions in biology, biochemistry, and medicine

Description New bioemulsifying biopolymers were developed and their production levels characterised, as well as optimisation studies to improve these yields. Conservative increases in yield were achieved, but these increases were still insufficient to be considered 'economic' for either of two companies interested in these bioemulsifiers. Therefore, the aim of commercialising these bioemulsifiers was not achieved. In parallel work identifying the biochemical characteristics of these bioemulsifiers, we identified that these biopolymers are likely to be important in binding essential trace elements such as iron for the bacteria, but also that these biopolymers may make some metals more bioavailable to algae these bacteria live in association with. Furthermore, these biopolymers could bind a range of heavy metals, which may be an important ecological property, but also raises the possibility of using these biopolymers to remediate waters of heavy metal contamination. This work lead to the realisation that yield of product was critical to get commercial interest. This has now been achieved, and we have a bacterial biopolymer being developed in conjunction with Unilever.
Exploitation Route The environmental and ecological implications for why these biopolymers are made is being developed as a research direction examining the role of bacterial biopolymers (and bacteria) may have in accessing essential trace elements from terrestrial humic material. The research knowledge and skills are being used to develop new biopolymers for commercial exploitation. Recognition that yield of product is critical to attract commercial interest in developing new products/processes.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Education,Environment,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description The research has identified fundamental properties of the bioemulsifiers that is relevant to marine biogeochemistry. The research has also enabled development of subsequent biopolymers for future commercial exploration. Results from this grant yielded a bioemulsifier product that was of application interest to two commercial companies. However, the production level that was achieved was still deemed insufficient to warrant these companies trying to develop this product further. This research has lead to successful PhD studentships being awarded to further develop new marine bacterial biopolymers in conjunction with two companies who provide products for the household and food sectors, and biomedical treatments.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Education,Environment,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description European Social Fund
Amount £103,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of the Highlands and Islands 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2017 
End 03/2021
Description FP7 KBBE.2012.3.2-01
Amount € 7,461,716 (EUR)
Funding ID 311932 
Organisation European Commission 
Department Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 08/2012 
End 08/2016
Description IBioIC PhD Studentship
Amount £103,400 (GBP)
Funding ID DG813 
Organisation Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre 
Sector Academic/University
Country Unknown
Start 10/2015 
End 09/2019
Description Meeting presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation titled: Marine bacterial biopolymers: from ecology to exploitation. The work reported was based on NERC follow-on funded results and was updated with recent work conducted at SAMS and in collaboration with the University of Strathclyde (funded by EU FP7).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016