The Systems and Synthetic Biology research line fosters resource-efficient, carbon-/ climate-neutral, technically feasible and economically affordable biotechnological production processes by bending the huge and versatile metabolic capabilities of (photo)autotrophic microorganisms to applicative purposes. The microorganisms of our interest are able to produce value-added compounds by using inorganic carbon as a substrate. Therefore, the exploitation of this peculiar metabolic feature permits to develop innovative biotechnological solutions to convert polluting greenhouse gasses, such as CO2, into bulk and fine chemicals of manifold industrial interests as well as fuels such as methane.
To repurpose the native cellular machinery for the production of desired platform molecules at appealing yields and productivities, our laboratory integrates systems biology, microbial physiology and biochemistry and fermentation technologies with metabolic flux optimization and strain engineering. To develop product-oriented proof-of-concept approaches into cell factories relevant to a circular and clean economy, stability and scalability of the engineered biocatalysts are of utmost relevance. To meet these objectives, strain optimization needs to be performed in conjunction with biochemical process engineering. We are developing the engineering aspects of our reactors and processes. The cross-sectorial skills deployed in our laboratory allow us to co-evolve process-related engineering solutions and strain development.
The main field of activities are organized into four work packages:
- WP1 - Light-powered carbon capture and upcycling through cyanobacteria
- WP2 - Gas fermentation into bulk and fine chemicals through acetogens
- WP3 - Biotransformation of carbon dioxide into energy carriers through archaea
- WP4 - Multi-scale bioprocess modelling
The infrastructure supporting our activities is organized into four distinct and complementary modules:
- the modelling module integrates quantitative physiology data with computational models of the bacterial system of interest as well as of the interactions of it with the reactor environment to predict putative engineering activities useful to define the qualitative properties and/or increase the productivity of the product of interest; Software licenses are available for metabolic engineering modelling) and bioreactor modelling and design (COMSOL) along with process modelling (ASPEN).
- the molecular biology module transforms the bacteria in productive platforms introducing ex-novo or potentiating the functionalities naturally expressed by the microorganisms (e.g., thermocycler, real-time PCR, equipment for DNA-electrophoresis, western blotting, cryoconservation)
- the gas fermentation module is equipped for the handling and cultivation of autotrophic anaerobic bacteria with CO2, CO and H2 by the use of gassing station, Whitley anaerobic workstation, static and orbital agitation incubators and an innovative small scale high-pressure fermentation system of three stirred tank reactors (0.5 L), configurable and automated on-the-fly.
- the photosynthetic module can be used to precisely apply controlled lightening regimes in white or orange-red light and monitor important parameters such as optical density (OD), pH and PSII fluorescence O2 dissolved in the medium, on-line CO2 consumption, growing the cells in turbidostat (fixed OD) condition. Photosynthetic microorganisms grown in batch condition can be simultaneously tested in 8 different white light conditions or in 8 different medium compositions.
- the analytical module offers equipment for data acquisition allowing characterisation and quantification across a range of biological products: kits available concern cell analysis, detection (fluorescence and optical microscopy, spectrophotometry), protein purification, high-performance liquid chromatography (RI and UV detectors) and gas chromatography.
- H2020-BIOTECH-05-2017 ENGICOIN "Engineered microbial factories for CO2 exploitation in an integrated waste treatment platform " funded by the Research and Innovation Action (RIA) financing mechanism. Date from: 01/01/2018. Date to: 31/12/2021. CSFT-IIT Coordinator.
- “CO2 Circle Lab (Acronym CCL)” funded by the Piemonte region relative to the thematic objective I - Research, technological development and innovation, Action I.1.a.1.5 “Sostegno alle Infrastrutture di ricerca considerate critiche/cruciali per i sistemi regionali” within the P.O.R FESR 2014/20 with Grant Agreement 321-34. Date from: 12/04/2018. Date to: 11/04/2019. CSFT coordinator.
- “BiFour – Biometano da bioidrogeno prodotto con biodigestione anaerobica bistadio” funded by Piemonte region relative to the thematic objective Energetic rescue – Energetic efficiency – Circular economy. Date from: 03/10/2017. Date to: 03/03/2020.
- “SATURNO - Scarti organici e Anidride carbonica Trasformati in carburanti, fertilizzanti e prodotti chimici; applicazione concreta dell’economia circolare” - funded by Piemonte region according to POR FESR 2014/2020- Azione I.1b.2.2 Piattaforma tecnologica Bioeconomia bando per agevolazioni di progetti di ricerca industriale e/o sviluppo sperimentale presenttai negli ambiti della bioeconomia. Date from: 01/07/2019. Date to: 2021.
- PR1ME - Processi e pRodotti Innovativi di chiMica vErde – funded by Pieonte region according to POR FESR 2014/2020- Azione I.1b.2.2 Piattaforma tecnologica Bioeconomia bando per agevolazioni di progetti di ricerca industriale e/o sviluppo sperimentale presenttai negli ambiti della bioeconomia. Date from: 01/07/2019. Date to: 30/06/2022.