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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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
Developing synthetic, cost-effective renewable sources of energy.
Research that is enabling early diagnosis of life-changing diseases like Parkinson's.
Global challenges, Manchester solutions
Efficient production of medicines
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.
Researchers from our Manchester Institute of Biotechnology have worked with industry partners at DSM to devise 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.
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.
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.
Cleaner and sustainable manufacturing
Biotechnology has the potential to revolutionise manufacturing, supporting a transition to a cleaner bio-based economy. However, it can take years for leading academic research to be adopted by industry and turned into new medicines or sustainable energy solutions.
The University of Manchester leads the Future Biomanufacturing Research Hub, which boosts interaction between academics and industry, promoting the translation of research into societal and economic benefits. This new UK centre is developing innovative biotechnologies for high-value manufacturing to sustainably produce pharmaceuticals, chemicals and materials.
Parkinson’s early diagnosis
Every hour, someone in the UK is told they have Parkinson’s disease – a progressive neurological condition with no definitive diagnostic test and no cure. It affects 127,000 people in the UK and 7.5 million worldwide, leaving many patients struggling to walk, speak and sleep.
We’re tackling the development of a noninvasive diagnostic test that may have the ability to diagnose early Parkinson’s, possibly even before physical symptoms are displayed. Our researchers are undertaking investigations to identify novel small molecules from sebum – an oily substance found in the skin – which are believed to emit a subtle but unique scent in patients in the early stages of Parkinson’s.
New biomaterials for a greener future
The UK government’s Clean Growth Strategy sets out proposals for decarbonising all sectors of the economy in the coming decades. New materials inspired by biology could help us meet this ambitious new green strategy.
Pioneering Manchester scientists at the Synthetic Biology Research Centre for Fine and Speciality Chemicals (SYNBIOCHEM) are taking inspiration from nature to develop the next generation of synthetic biological materials with amazing properties, such as enhanced strength, flexibility and lightness. Recent research into bioplastics has highlighted new biomanufacturing processes that can provide positive environmental impact and allow affordable and sustainable production.
Improving chemicals production
Many flavours and fragrances are sourced from botanicals. However, some of which contain only minute levels of the target compound. Engineering bacterial strains that produce these compounds could reduce the environmental
impact of traditional chemical synthesis.
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 important chemical targets, which are key to a wide range of sectors.
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.
We’ve 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.
Antibiotics production crisis
According to the World Health Organization, there are not enough new antibiotics in development. Since their 1960s heyday, the production of novel antibiotics has declined markedly – it’s been 30 years since a major new class of antibiotics for clinical use has been discovered.
Researchers at Manchester’s Synthetic Biology Research Centre, SYNBIOCHEM, have married biology with engineering to find new routes to antibiotics. Using synthetic biology we can rewrite the DNA sequences of the antibiotic biosynthesis pathways and introduce different enzymes from other organisms. Our pioneering robotic technology, meanwhile, can test thousands of these compounds every year, bringing new synthetic antibiotics a step closer.
Accelerating medicine development
It can take years or even decades to develop and produce new medicines, with those affected unable to be helped by the latest developments in biotechnology.
Our researchers have created a new way to speed up the genome evolution of baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the same yeast used in bread and beer production. This innovation could help with the mass production of advanced medicines to treat illnesses such as malaria and tuberculosis. It could also have massive implications for the future study of DNA.
Bacteria could replace crude oil in biofuels
Researchers are exploring how to create bio-based jet fuels from bacteria that grows in seawater rather than using crude oil.
New Director for Manchester Institute of Biotechnology
Professor Rob Field has been appointed Director of the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology from January 2020.
Helping robots build new antibiotics
Manchester researchers have engineered a common gut bacterium to produce a new class of antibiotics to combat diseases and cancer, using robotics.
New hub to boost bio-tech in Greater Manchester
A new bio-tech facility, based at the University, is set to transform the bio-tech manufacturing process, driving clean growth and increasing commercial viability.
University signs up to help Manchester go zero carbon and plastic free
The University will work to remove avoidable single-use plastics from catering, labs and stationery by 2022 and play a major role in the city’s zero carbon by 2038 target.
Smell of skin could lead to early Parkinson's diagnosis
Scientists have found small molecules in sebum are responsible for a unique scent on Parkinson’s patients which could lead to the development of an early diagnosis test.
University entrepreneurs win at Innovator of the Year Awards
Two initiatives developed by Manchester-based entrepreneurs claimed Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council prizes at a national awards ceremony.
Get an in-depth insight into how our industrial biotechnology research is changing the world.
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Research beacons breakthrough ebook
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Industrial Biotechnology MOOC
Find out more by taking our free MOOC (massive open online course) covering the key technologies underpinning biotechnology research.
Manchester Institute of Biotechnology
Learn more about the research undertaken by this leading centre.
Visit the MIB website
Faculty of Science and Engineering
We also have industrial biotechnology expertise in our Schools of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science.
Visit the Faculty of Science and Engineering