IBISBA entered into a preliminary building phase in 2014 and has since been the focus of collective planning and concept building, performed by 14 partner organizations, located in 9 European member states. In 2017, French government authorities working with the IBISBA consortium submitted the IBISBA candidature to ESFRI. This candidature received strong political support from Finland, Italy, Spain, Greece and the Netherlands, and was backed by leading European research organizations in Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom3. Recognition of the importance of the IBISBA project by ESFRI is an important step in the project's trajectory, since it confirms the scientific excellence and the strategic pertinence of the concept. Moreover, ESFRI recognition opens up a new development that will allow IBISBA to create services that aim to accelerate the preindustrial R&D phases of bioprocess development, thus supporting industrial biotechnology and promoting its role as a key enabling technology of the bioeconomy.
It is widely recognized that Industrial Biotechnology is a Key Enabling Technology for the bioeconomy transition. This is because biocatalysts (enzymes, microroganisms etc) are exquisitely adapted for the conversion of biobased resources into a wide range of commercial products. Moreover, unlike chemical catalysts, workhorses of the petrochemical industry for the conversion of fossil-resources, biocatalysts handle oxygen-rich biomolecules, operate in aqueous conditions and in moderate (in terms of temperature and pH) reactions conditions. Moreover, when used alone or in synergy with chemical catalysis, industrial biotechnology holds the potential to address many of society's needs, converting biobased raw material into fuels, chemical building blocks, materials, cosmetics and pharmaceutical ingredients, and providing solutions, for example, for recyling.
The origins of the IBISBA infrastructure project are diverse and draw upon Europe's rich landscape of scientific and technological infrastructure focused on industrial biotechnology. IBISBA also draws upon the experience of longstanding players in Industrial biotechnology, developing R&D in systems and synthetic biology, and in bioprocess and chemical engineering. Many of the partners are universities, but others are RTOs and research organizations. Together they combine a wide range of knowledge, significant infrastructure capability and a track record of successful synergy with private sector partners.
Recent R&D breakthroughs in industrial biotechnology [from a French perspective]
The genesis of the IBISBA infrastructure project can be partly traced to the creation of Toulouse White Biotechnology, an innovative multiplatform infrastructure operated by INSA Toulouse, CNRS and INRA. This preindustrial demonstration facility was created using funding from France's Investments for the Future program, and was made possible through the strong participation of the Laboratoire d'Ingénierie Systèmes Biologiques et Procédés (also operated by INSA Toulouse, CNRS and INRA) a historical heavyweight of academic research in the field of Industrial Biotechnology in France. The creation of TWB allowed the academic ecosystem in Toulouse to experiment innovative schemes involving public-private partnership and to launch several major R&D projects. Two of these are THANAPLAST and SYNTHACS.
THANAPLAST was conducted in collaboration with the French SME CARBIOS. This project resulted in innovative solutions to deal with the end of life of plastics. The project led to the development of a bioprocess for the degradation of biobased plastics such as PLA, while a second innovation based on enzyme technology paves the way towards recycling of molecular components of PET, one of the most widespread plastics, found in products of daily life such as plastic bottles.
SYNTHACS was performed in collaboration with ADISSEO, a company specialized in animal nutrition. This project led to the development of a prototype bioprocess for the synthesis of a methionine (a key ingredient of animal feed) precursor. Within the project a new biological pathway was designed, which allow a bacterium to convert glucose into the target chemical. This is a breakthrough, especially considering that methionine is currently manufactured using a chemical process and fossil-based raw material.
1 European Science Forum for Research Infrastructure. Created in 2002, ESFRI plays an central role in the definition of Europe's long term policy for large Research Infrastructure
2 IBISBA is the acronym for Industrial Biotechnology Innovation and Synthetic Biology Accelerator
3 IBISBA partners are: VITO (Belgium), VTT (Finland), CEA, INRA, INSA Toulouse and the Université de Nantes (France), RWTH Aachen University and Fraunhofer IGB/CBP (Germany), Wageningen UR (The Netherlands), National Technical University of Athens (Greece), CNR and Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II (Italy), CIB & CNB – CSIC and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Spain), Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (The United Kingdom).