News Release

Revolutionizing biorefineries: Advancing towards sustainable 3G technologies in CO2 utilization

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Nanjing Agricultural University The Academy of Science

Fig. 1


Existing naturally existed CO2 fixation pathways.

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Credit: BioDesign Research

The evolution of biorefineries, shifting from sugar-based and biomass feedstocks to third-generation (3G) technologies, marks a significant progress toward sustainable development. 3G biorefineries utilize microbial cell factories or enzymatic systems to convert one-carbon (C1) sources like CO2 into value-added chemicals, powered by renewable energies. Despite the potential of native C1 assimilating microbes, challenges like low carbon fixation efficiency and limited product scope hinder their scalability. Heterotrophic microorganisms, engineered through synthetic biology and computational tools, offer a promising solution to these challenges. The current research focuses on enhancing the efficiency of C1 fixation and productivity of desired compounds, with chemo-bio hybrid systems leveraging electricity and light as emerging strategies.

In October 2023, BioDesign Research published a review article entitled by “Design and Construction of Artificial Biological Systems for One-Carbon Utilization”.

In this review, significant advancements over the past decade in the development of third-generation (3G) biorefineries are discussed. These refineries focus on using one-carbon (C1) sources such as CO2, methanol, and formate, harnessing artificial autotrophic microorganisms, tandem enzymatic systems, and chemo-bio hybrid systems. This approach could revolutionize biotechnology, offering sustainable alternative strategies for industrial production. Central to these developments are natural CO2 fixation pathways, which have been instrumental in engineering artificial systems for heterotrophic microorganisms like E. coli and Pichia pastoris. Despite these progress, challenges such as energy imbalances, low carbon fixation efficiency, and the absence of native methanol assimilation pathways in certain heterotrophs still remain. Chemo-bio hybrid systems, which combine electrocatalysis and biocatalysis, show promise for efficient CO2 conversion. However, issues such as maintaining metabolite stability and enzymatic activity still need addressing. Overcoming these challenges is essential for the success of these artificial biological systems in C1 utilization, with potential transformative impacts on various industries, including pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and food production.




Wei  Zhong1†, Hailong  Li1,2†, and Yajie  Wang1*

†These authors contributed equally to this work.


1Westlake Center of Synthetic Biology and Integrated Bioengineering, School of Engineering, Westlake University,  Hangzhou  310000,  PR  China.  

2School  of  Materials  Science  and  Engineering,  Zhejiang  University, Zhejiang Province, Hangzhou 310000, PR China.

About Yajie Wang

Wang lab focuses on integrating protein engineering, synthetic biology, chemistry, material sciences, and machine learning to establish a “Design-Build-Test-Learn” platform to design and construct artificial chemo-bio hybrid systems to harness the synthetic power from both chemistry and biology, and synthesize value-added compounds from the renewable sources, waste, and even air.

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