Centre for Synthetic Biology and the Bioeconomy

Past Seminars

Development of cyanobacterial strains for the future biorefineries

Prof Pramod Wangikar, Department of Chemical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, India

Date/Time: 11th of June 2018, 13:00-14:00

Prof Pramod Wangikar from the Department of Chemical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, India is visiting Newcastle University on 11th of June 2018. He will be giving a talk at an extraordinary CSBB seminar with the title "Metabolic Engineering and 13C Metabolic Flux Analysis of Cyanobacteria for Production of Chemicals". The CSBB lunch time seminar will therefore be preponed to Monday, 11th of June at 13:00 and will be held at room 2.022, Urban Science Building, 1 Science Square, NE4 5TG, instead. 


Cyanobacteria provide an interesting platform for
biotechnological applications due to their efficient photoautotrophic growth and amenability to genetic engineering.
In a future biorefinery, engineered cyanobacteria may be deployed for the production of biofuels and platform chemicals from CO2 as feedstock and by harnessing solar energy. Developing such strains may involve host engineering and pathway engineering and will require toolkits such as adaptive laboratory evolution (ALE), synthetic biology, metabolic modeling and 13C-metabolic flux analysis (13C-MFA). An ideal industrial strain of cyanobacteria would need to be fast growing, naturally transformable and tolerant to high levels of temperature, light, carbon dioxide and salt. Therefore, as a first step, we have isolated a cyanobacterial strain from India that fulfils these requirements. The strain has been deposited with the Pasteur Culture collection of Cyanobacteria (PCC) as Synechococcus sp. PCC 11801. Genome sequence of PCC 11801 shows identity of ~83% with its closest neighbour S. elongatus PCC 7942. Interestingly, the new isolate can be readily adapted for improved tolerance to various abiotic stresses. In terms of synthetic biology tools, we have characterized a number of native and synthetic promoters that can be used to express heterologous pathways. We have demonstrated the production of a number of platform chemicals such as 2,3-butanediol and succinic acid in PCC 11801 by using the native promoters. In parallel, we have developed a workflow for isotopic non-stationary 13C-MFA of cyanobacteria. The isotopic 13C labelling or the mass isotopologue distribution (MID) of over 100 intermediate metabolites and their fragments has been quantified with SWATH tandem mass spectrometry. This in turn provides a high resolution flux map, which aids the model based design of strains and efficient channelling of carbon toward the product of interest. Overall, our results show that PCC 11801 is a strong candidate for photosynthetic production of fuels and chemicals at industrial level.

Additionally, I will briefly touch upon our ongoing work in other related areas that include photo- physiology of industrial strains of microalgae and bio-catalysis for chiral synthesis of compounds of pharmaceutical interest.


Pramod Wangikar received his B. Chem. Eng. degree from ICT Mumbai (formerly UDCT Mumbai) and Ph.D. from University of Iowa. Currently, he is Professor of Chemical Engineering at IIT Bombay. Additionally, Dr. Wangikar is the coordinator of two virtual centers, “Wadhwani Research Center for Bioengineering”, IIT Bombay and “DBT PAN IIT Center for Bioenergy”. The latter is spread across five IITs with participation of 21 investigators. His research is at the interface of engineering and biology with ongoing work on (i) Investigations into cellular metabolism by 13C Metabolic Flux Analysis, (ii) Bioprocess development for therapeutic proteins and enzymes, (iii) Biocatalysis for chiral synthesis, and (iv) Metabolic engineering of cyanobacteria. He has undertaken several projects sponsored by industries such as Hi Tech BioSciences Ltd., Reliance Industries Ltd., JSW Steel, Lupin Ltd., Persistent Systems Ltd and Terra Biologics (USA). He has published over 80 research articles that have received over 2200 citations.