Green Chemistry Towards Net Zero Genome-Engineered Microorganisms as A Cell Factory for Chemical Production

Due to global warming, the international chemical industry is currently committed to reducing the use of fossil fuels/raw materials. Numerous end products require a certain proportion of green/biological raw materials. Therefore, the production of chemical products with genetically modified microorganisms has become a market barrier and threshold. The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), Taiwan, actively promotes the net-zero carbon reduction policy and contributes to earth's sustainable environmental protection. Thanks to the long-term support from NSTC, Dr. Yu-Chen Hu, the Chair Professor of Department of Chemical Engineering at National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan, has developed a variety of "gene-edited microorganisms to produce biochemicals" technologies, which can assist chemical industries to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption during the manufacturing of chemicals. 

Professor Hu cooperates with a well-known chemical company in Taiwan to develop the latest gene-editing CRISPR technology to regulate the metabolic pathway of microorganisms and produce the biochemicals needed by the company. Among them, cyanobacteria can perform photosynthesis and use carbon dioxide as a carbon source. Professor Hu developed the CRISPR technology for gene-editing of cyanobacteria, which greatly shortens the time for genetically modifying cyanobacteria. The engineered cyanobacteria can capture and convert carbon dioxide into the biochemical 2,3-butanediol, achieving the goal of net zero carbon reduction. Based on these technologies, Prof. Hu's laboratory has successfully gene-edited many microorganisms that are difficult to genetically modify by traditional methods. These technologies and strains have been successfully used to produce important chemical raw materials such as succinic acid and 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid.

In addition, medium-chain dibasic acids are important raw materials for the manufacture of high-value nylon, high-grade lubricants, adhesives, antirust agents and corrosion-resistant coatings. The chemical production method includes multiple complex steps such as dehydrogenation, separation and oxidation, which require high temperature, high pressure, and high energy consumption. There are also risks of explosion and environmental pollution. Genetically modified microorganisms can exploit highly specific enzymes, catalyzing the reactions inside the cell at normal temperature and pressure, which has the advantages of low energy consumption and low pollution, and is in line with the international trend of green chemical production. At present, the global supply of medium-carbon chain dibasic acids is mainly dominated by mainland China, while Taiwan still lacks the capacity for commercial production. Professor Hu combined synthetic biology and metabolic engineering to discover new genes, and developed a new gene editing technology to transform microorganism to produce high-value medium-carbon chain dibasic acids. In the 3-liter reactor, the production titer can keep pace with the world's leading manufacturers.  The process is also scaled up to a 25-liter reactor. Professor Hu also developed downstream purification and product identification procedures. Prof. Hu is currently collaborating with the company to further optimize the microbial strain and downstream process for further commercialization. This is Taiwan's first self-owned medium-chain diacid production technology. 


Media Contact:
Hong Cheng
Program Manager
Department of Engineering and Technologies
National Science and Technology Council
Phone:(02) 27377776

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Last Modified : 2023/09/14