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Industrial biotechnology

Industrial biotechnology

Global challenges

Manchester solutions

Industrial biotechnology

The University of Manchester is at the forefront of a bio-industrial revolution.

Fossil fuels have been the primary energy source for society since the Industrial Revolution. They provide the raw material for the manufacture of many everyday products that we take for granted including pharmaceuticals, food and drink, materials, plastics and personal care.     

But our dependency can't continue. The combined effect of fossil carbon depletion and climate change means we must find cleaner, more sustainable forms of energy. We need solutions that will help us respond to society’s grand challenges: an ever-increasing and ageing population, affordable health care, resource efficiency, food security, climate change and energy shortages. 

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General Academic Industry Policy

University of Manchester infographic: industrial biotechnology
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A bio-industrial revolution

Just as Manchester was at the heart of the first Industrial Revolution, The University of Manchester is now leading the way, both nationally and across Europe, towards a bio-industrial revolution. We’re at the forefront of a European industrial renaissance, creating next-generation chemicals for industrial and health care needs.

Using biological resources such as plants, algae, fungi, marine life and micro-organisms, industrial biotechnology, combined with the emerging science of synthetic biology, is changing how we manufacture chemicals and materials, and provides a source of renewable energy. 

We’re channelling the full breadth of our expertise in chemicals, materials and energy to find the answers. In the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, the University has one of Europe’s leading industry-interfaced institutes, with world-leading capabilities in chemicals synthesis and manufacture.

Supported by a grant portfolio of more than £100 million, we partner with some of the world’s leading companies from across the chemistry, biotechnology and biopharmaceutical sectors – including GlaxoSmithKline, Shell, Unilever and Pfizer– to drive the creation of new, bio-based chemicals. 

Solutions for 21st century industry

As the 21st century progresses and we move towards more bio-based economies, we need solutions for the manufacture of chemicals that are smarter, more predictable and more sustainable.

At The University of Manchester we’re advancing this agenda.

We have the capacity to deliver renewable and sustainable materials, biopharmaceuticals, chemicals and energy that will transform the UK and European industrial landscape.

Industrial biotechnology: Research breakthroughs

Global challenges, Manchester solutions

Producing inexpensive pharmaceuticals

Hepatitis C is a major health problem affecting around 150 million people worldwide. Many infected people live in countries where access to modern expensive treatments is a major issue.

Manchester solution

We have helped develop a new class of drugs that are highly effective in tackling hepatitis C, completely removing the virus from most patients. Efforts can now focus on making telaprevir – the leading medicine in this area – widely available and affordable. In collaboration with the Free University of Amsterdam, we devised an efficient synthesis of telaprevir that combines biocatalysis with multicomponent chemistry.

Why Manchester?

We are home to the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology: a leading European industry-interfaced biotechnology research institute with world-leading expertise in integrated biophysics and catalysis, and capabilities spanning all aspects of biological structure and determination.

Efficient production of pravastatin

Statins are a major breakthrough in health care: widely used drugs that decrease the risk of coronary heart disease and strokes by lowering cholesterol levels. To make them more widely available, we need to reduce production costs.

Manchester solution

Industrial researchers at DSM and researchers from our Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB) have devised a single-step fermentative method for the industrial production of pravastatin, replacing the previous costly dual-step fermentation and biotransformation process. This new biotechnologically advanced method forms the basis of a patented process for efficient production of this blockbuster drug.

Why Manchester?

We have 52 lead MIB investigators collaborating with many more colleagues across the University, while 30% of MIB’s research portfolio involves overseas partners.

Greener fuels

Propane, a major component of liquefied petroleum gas, is the world’s third most widely used motor fuel and provides heat and energy for an estimated 14 million homes. Reducing its environmental impact is crucial in tackling global climate change.

Manchester solution

Researchers from our Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, in collaboration with Imperial College London and the University of Turku, have created a synthetic pathway for biosynthesis of propane gas. This cutting-edge process has the potential to revolutionise the production of biofuel, avoiding the environmental issues associated with extracting fuel from non-renewable sources and drastically reducing the transport costs and carbon emissions associated with production.

Why Manchester?

Our multidisciplinary approach to industrial biotechnology is transforming the traditional chemical and chemical-related sector to a more sustainable and competitive one, which uses biological resources for the production and processing of chemicals, energy and materials.

Industrial biotechnology and bioenergy networks

Bringing together industry and academia to translate biotechnology discovery into business application.

Manchester solution

The University of Manchester hosts four national networks in industrial biotechnology and bioenergy to boost interaction between academics and industry, promoting the translation of research into benefits for the UK. These networks help drive new ideas and harness the potential of biological resources for producing and processing materials, biopharmaceuticals, chemicals and energy.

Why Manchester?

We’re home to the BIOCATNET (network in biocatalyst discovery, development and scale up), BioProNET (network in bioprocessing), IB Carb (glycoscience tools for biotechnology and bioenergy) and NPRONET (natural products discovery and bioengineering network).

Improving chemicals production

Many flavours and fragrances are sourced from botanicals. However, some botanicals contain only minute levels of the target compound. Engineering bacterial strains that produce these compounds could significantly reduce the environmental impact of traditional chemical synthesis.

Manchester solution

Hosted by the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, the Synthetic Biology Research Centre for Fine and Speciality Chemicals (SYNBIOCHEM) focuses early activity in three key chemical targets: alkaloids, flavonoids and terpenoids. These projects aim to accelerate the production and scale-up of these chemical targets, which are key to a wide range of sectors.

Why Manchester?

SYNBIOCHEM has had major scientific success that is being translated for commercial applications, as evidenced by 80 scientific peer-reviewed papers and review publications (in Science, Nature, Cell), new patents (plus an industry-sponsored patent with Shell) and a new spin-out company (C3 Bio-Technologies Ltd).