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Modern biotechnology still has many hurdles to overcome in order to become truly sustainable and competitive. Radical steps are needed, instead of gradual improvement: achieving results faster, ten times cheaper, with yields that are closer to the maximum and without scale-up problems.
Editorial office / Brussels

Wouter van Winden, DSM’s Principal Scientist Fermentation, conveyed this message in his presentation at EFIB 2020. He discussed the ‘Zero Concepts in Bioprocessing’ strategy on which DSM will be working in the coming years. To achieve these ambitious goals, according to Van Winden, spills of carbon, water and energy must be prevented, fluctuations in PH and temperature must be reduced and the use of oxygen and nitrogen must be avoided.

For example, carbon losses can be reduced through cell retention, which also leads to higher yields. Energy waste can be reduced by avoiding energy intensive aseptic methods and using extermophiles or xenobiotic nutrients for product recovery. PH fluctuations between the process steps can be prevented by adjusting the processes. For example, DSM developed a yeast-based method to make succinic acid at a low PH; this simplifies downstream processing. Anaerobic (oxygen-free) fermentation usually has a higher yield. And using water-free feedstocks prevents water wastage.

Less development time

Reducing development time is also indispensable. When upscaling processes developed in the lab, unexpected behaviors that influence the process regularly occur. It leads to long development times; five years from lab to commercial scale is common. According to Van Winden, this can be reduced to a year by using computer models in the lab that can predict the behavior in large scale bioreactor vessels.

According to Van Winden, there are still major challenges to put the Zero Concepts into practice. But once ultimate performance can be achieved, bioprocesses will outcompete fossil production processes.

EFIB 2020

EFIB is the leading European conference for industrial biotechnology. The conference is currently taking place digitally from 5 to 9 October 2020. For more information, see the EFIB website.

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