DTU Biosustain joins Global Biofoundries Alliance

Thursday 09 May 19
by Anders Mønsted, Anne Lykke

The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability (DTU Biosustain) joins the Global Biofoundries Alliance. This new initiative will strengthen international collaboration on efficient design and construction of cell factories.

Over the past five years, several research institutions have established biofoundries that provide an integrated infrastructure to enable the rapid automated design, construction, and testing of cells for biotechnology and research applications. Nevertheless, biofoundries are still not widely known in the biological research or biotechnology industry communities.

To enable global coordination and gain more visibility in this area, 16 non-commercial biofoundries from all across the world have formed a Global Biofoundries Alliance (GBA). The alliance was officially launched at a kick-off meeting in Kobe, Japan, 9 May, and the concept is described in a simultaneous publication by the founding members of the alliance in the journal Nature Communications.

"Everyone is inventing their own ways to describe how they construct and design cell factories, but we are lacking standards and exchange of knowledge in this field"
Director of Data Science and Automation, Markus Herrgård

The alliance aims to help in overcoming shared challenges and unmet scientific and engineering needs.

“There are many challenges that international collaboration can help to solve. Currently, everyone is inventing their own ways to describe how they construct and design cell factories, and we are lacking standards and exchange of knowledge in this field. Standards and knowledge sharing will allow us to create larger-scale collective projects and to increase reproducibility through sharing of data”, says Professor & Director of Data Science and Automation at The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability (DTU Biosustain), Markus Herrgård and continues:

“At this stage, there is no universally accepted way to describe how cell factories are designed and constructed. This makes it very difficult to compare and validate data produced by different research groups as you can’t easily find out how similar the cell factories described in different publications are. Thus, one of the key drivers for the alliance will be to provide more standardization.”

Idea started a year ago

The process to establish GBA was initiated by Agile Biofoundry in USA and London DNA Foundry based at the Imperial College. The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability (DTU Biosustain) was invited to join the alliance together with other biofoundries around the world. At the moment, DTU Biosustain is the only GBA representative from the whole continental Europe.

According to Markus Herrgård, biofoundry capacities are a critical enabling technology for individual research institutions and countries to fulfill the potential of the bioeconomy.

“At DTU Biosustain we have a very extensive fermentation platform whereas other places have very limited fermentation platforms. Some places on the other hand have extensive automation for building strains whereas we have more limited automation in this area. If we can bring these different capacities together, it will allow us to come up with responses to technological and operational challenges,” says he.

Moving into the ‘big data era’

As data science, software development and automation become more and more important for driving the development towards a more sustainable world, GBA plays an important part in enhancing the visibility and impact of non-commercial biofoundries.

“It is crucial that we raise awareness that these kinds of facilities exist and take full advantage of data sharing. It can really help to know how a certain automation or measurement system works, and you can verify that your setup works by comparing with other places that have a similar equipment”, says Markus Herrgård.

The hope is that new biofoundries that are in the process of being established around the world will join the 16 founding members in the future.

The full article in Nature Communications can be found here.

Key objectives of Global Biofoundry Alliance

  • Develop, promote, and support non-commercial biofoundries established around the world
  • Intensify collaboration and communication among biofoundries
  • Collectively develop responses to technological, operational, and other types of common challenges
  • Enhance visibility, impact and sustainability of non-commercial biofoundries
  • Explore globally relevant and societally impactful grand challenge collaborative projects

Source: Nature Communications volume 10, Article number: 2040(2019)

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