4 Applications of Bioprocessing
Dec 27 2022
From food and pharmaceuticals to fuel and chemicals, bioprocessing is used across a wide range of sectors. The term describes the use of a biocatalyst to grow and harvest naturally occurring materials sourced from living cells and their components. Below, we take a closer look at some of the different applications for bioprocessing and the impact they have on day-to-day life.
Vaccines, painkillers and cancer therapies are all examples of bioprocessing in the pharmaceuticals sector. In an article published in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, the authors spotlight the role of natural products and their analogues in pharmacotherapy. This includes the development of therapies for cancers and infectious diseases and viruses, as well as treatments for cardiovascular diseases and multiple sclerosis.
“In recent years, several technological and scientific developments - including improved analytical tools, genome mining and engineering strategies, and microbial culturing advances - are addressing such challenges and opening up new opportunities,” reads the article. “Consequently, interest in natural products as drug leads is being revitalised, particularly for tackling antimicrobial resistance.”
Safe and natural, humans have been leveraging the power of bioprocessing for centuries. From wine and beer to bread, cheese and yogurt, bioprocessing harnesses the natural properties of living organisms and uses them to create new products. As well as creating the products themselves, bioprocessing is used to enhance variables like texture, flavour and shelf life.
Over the past decade, bioprocessing has gained traction in the energy sector. Bioprocessing techniques are being used to harness the natural properties of plant and algae biomass and manufacture eco-friendly fuels like bioethanol. Biomass is affordable, renewable and abundant, making it an exciting alternative to hydrocarbon-based fuels. In the book Advanced Bioprocessing for Alternative Fuels, Biobased Chemicals, and Bioproducts, the authors explore how advances in metabolomics, genomics and synthetic biology have revolutionised the biofuels sector.
While many chemicals are synthetic, others are produced microbially using bioprocessing techniques. These include consolidated bioprocessing (CBP), separate hydrolysis and fermentation (SHF) and simultaneous saccharification and fermentation (SSF). These next-generation techniques allow bioprocessing engineers to generate macromolecules and aromatic compounds using renewable feedstocks like lignocellulosic biomass.
With the right technique, it’s possible to create products that can be used as drop-in replacements for petroleum-based chemicals. In a paper published in the journal Current Opinion in Biotechnology, the authors explain how bio-based chemical feedstocks have evolved from edible sugars to more complex sources like lignocellulosic biomass.
“Lignocellulosic biomass is an abundant, non-edible and renewable resource that is predominantly composed of cellulose (25–55%), hemicellulose (11–50%) and lignin (10–40%),” write the authors. “As hydrolysates of lignocellulose contain a number of sugars, including glucose, which can be utilised for microbial fermentation, such feedstocks have the potential to serve as alternative sources for bio-based chemical production.”
Bioprocessing is a highly complex field with multiple different stages. The early stages are classed as upstream while the later stages are considered downstream. Find out more about both in our complete guide, ‘What is Bioprocessing? Guide to Upstream & Downstream’.
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