Development of a next-generation biomanufacturing platform for the conversion of greenhouse gases to value-added chemicals

The uncertain price and tight supply of crude oil, and the considerable damage that society’s over-use of oil products has wreaked on the environment have created an urgent need to develop and implement sustainable manufacturing technologies for the production of cleaner fuels. This goal is especially relevant for Canada, whose annual per capita greenhouse gas emissions are amongst the highest in the world.

Of the manufacturing alternatives that have been suggested, metabolic engineering is particularly promising since it strikes two birds with one stone. Not only are biomanufacturing processes that employ engineered biological systems the ultimate demonstration of green chemical manufacturing, but genetically manipulating microorganisms to directly convert carbon dioxide to useful products at industrial scales could also greatly mitigate the greenhouse gas content in the atmosphere. In fact, the fixation of carbon dioxide to liquid fuels by engineered microorganisms is poised to become one of the most prominent bioprocesses in Canada once oil production in Alberta’s tar sands ramps up to its installed capacity in the next few years. The tar sands occupy no more than 1.5% of the total landmass of Canada but are projected to account for nearly 20% of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions by 2020, and the need to design and develop sustainable bioprocesses that can efficiently convert a major fraction of these emissions into liquid transportation fuel could not be more urgent.

The development of an integrated gas-to-liquid biofuels manufacturing process will occur through four distinct project modules: (1) metabolic engineering of the bacterium Escherichia coli to express heterologous (or foreign) metabolic pathways derived from other microorganisms to produce the metabolite acetyl-CoA from carbon dioxide in copious quantities, (2) metabolic and enzyme engineering of E. coli to synthesise advanced (C8-C10) biofuels from acetyl-CoA, (3) co-expression and co-optimisation of the carbon dioxide-fixing and biofuels-producing metabolic pathways to demonstrate gas-to-liquid fuels production, and (4) development of a pilot-scale bioprocess to demonstrate integrated gas-to-liquid fuels production.

Successful Globalink Research Fellows will be assigned to Module # 1. The candidates will work in a dynamic and multidisciplinary team comprising chemical engineers, chemists, biologists and process engineers who will be working on the other modules in parallel. The successful candidates will be assigned lead authorship and/or co-inventorship of all papers and/or patents that will result from this work, as well as the option to join the research group in the future as graduate students should he/she satisfactorily meet the goals of the project. The successful candidates should be students of science or engineering, have knowledge of analytical chemistry and molecular biology concepts and techniques, and demonstrate a strong potential to rapidly assimilate new concepts and master experimental methodologies.

Faculty Supervisor:

Vikramaditya Yadav


Maria Lammoglia Cobo



Life Sciences



University of British Columbia



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