LabCom - V2 - Laboratoires communs organismes de recherche publics – PME/ETI - Vague 2

Production of anthraquinone dyes using synthetic biology – AnthraLab

Submission summary

Among its ambitious goals, Europe’s new growth strategy, the ‘European Green Deal’, aims to improve both human health and the environment by reducing the use of harmful chemicals. Prominent among these are chemically-synthesized colorants, which are widely utilized in the food, cosmetics and textile industries (the total European dye market is valued at $8.2 billion). Many dyes obtained by organic synthesis are recalcitrant to biodegradation and potentially injurious to humans, while much of the chemistry is toxic and explosive, and therefore cannot be performed in Europe. Thus, these dyes are manufactured in countries with permissive environmental regulations, with the result that both the negative environmental impacts and the supply chain are delocalized from the end users.

The proposed LabCom ‘AnthraLab’, which unites the Polyketide Synthase (PKS) group of UMR 7365 CNRS-Université de Lorraine, IMoPA (Ingénierie Moléculaire et Physiopathologie Articulaire), and Abolis Biotechnologies, Évry, aligns directly with the Green Deal. The core idea of this bilateral collaboration is to take Europe ‘back to the future’, by reinvigorating the historical use of natural colorants. This initiative aims not only to generate bio-based assembly processes and biodegradable products of substantially reduced toxicity, but to allow for relocating dye production to France/Europe where environmental protections are strict.

To achieve these goals, we aim to couple strong expertise in polyketide biosynthesis and Streptomyces microbiology (PKS group), with high-throughput synthetic biology/metabolic engineering in E. coli/yeast and industrial-scale bioprocess development (Abolis), to create efficient, high-yielding microbial production factories for natural anthraquinones. These natural molecules are very stable to light and pH, cover a wide color spectrum and have comparable performance characteristics to chemically-synthesized colorants. Biosourcing of these natural molecules overcomes the current environmental/economic limitations of extracting these compounds from Nature, and will also contribute to increased competitiveness of France and Europe in the area of industrial synthetic biology.

The long-term objective of the LabCom is to establish a new business unit within Abolis devoted to providing anthraquinone-derived colorants to its customers, so that they too can become effective actors in the European Green revolution. Indeed, Abolis is perfectly positioned via its existing and growing network of industrial partners to fast track hit products and their associated processes to market. With the revenues generated, the PKS group will benefit from a durable source of funding to support continued work in this area, as well as its more fundamental research activities. This LabCom is endorsed by the Pôle IAR (J. Vandeputte), as well as the Lorraine Université d’Excellence.

Project coordination

Kira WEISSMAN (Ingénierie Moléculaire et Physiopathologie Articulaire)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


IMoPA Ingénierie Moléculaire et Physiopathologie Articulaire

Help of the ANR 362,962 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: May 2021 - 54 Months

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