The EU has granted EUR 6.3 million to the project DD-DeCaF in which DTL partner DSM participates. DD-DeCaF’s objective is to develop a computer tool that will allow biotech companies to design and engineer cell factories faster. Cell factories are genetically engineered microbes such as baker’s yeast and Escherichia coli. The tool will accelerate the production of sustainable biochemicals and healthier food.
Cell factories can produce many valuable molecules used in consumer goods, e.g., plastic diapers, cosmetics and food. But engineering microbes to produce large amounts of a given bio-chemical is very complicated, time consuming and expensive.
Omics data allow life scientists to make an inventory of a cell’s molecular components and therefore enables a data-driven approach to biology and bioengineering. Unfortunately, the biotech industry does not yet have tools to make effective use of this data. The scope of the DD-DeCaF project is to develop an easy-to-use web application that collects all this data and enables engineers to integrate it with computational models of biological pathways.
“The biotech industry is in great need of a computational design tool that allows them to simulate how a cell will behave if you engineer it in a certain way – just as engineers design and test buildings before they build them”, says Professor Markus Herrgard from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability (DTU Biosustain) at the Technical University of Denmark. He is the project coordinator of DD-DeCaF.
The web platform will have an intuitive and user-friendly interface that will enable exploratory data analysis through interactive and interconnected visualisations reducing the costs of developing cell factories. This will allow them to compete with currently used unsustainable petrochemical processes.
The DD-DeCaF project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. The project is a collaboration between the Technical University of Denmark, Chalmers University (Sweden), European Molecular Biology Laboratory, University of Minho (Portugal), Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (Switzerland), SilicoLife Lda (Portugal), Genialis d.o.o. (Slovenia), Biobyte solutions GmbH (Germany), Biosyntia A/S (Denmark) and DTL partner DSM N.V. (the Netherlands).
Three small and medium sized bioinformatics companies will be involved in the development of the software tools and intuitive visualizations of biological networks that can be used by non-experts. Simultaneously, two industrial biotech partners –Biosyntia and DSM – will utilize the tool in two real-world cell factory projects and thus continuously evaluate the tool’s usability from two very different user perspectives.
DD-DeCaF also aims at exploring interactions between cell communities and obtaining novel data about the interplay between microbes. For example, the human gut consists of many different cell types that interact and compete with each other. If some cell types begin to dominate the gut, or if communities fight each other, this may lead to disease. Being able to describe these cell interactions computationally, the industry will eventually be able to develop food and pharmaceutical compounds with beneficial implications on the gut.
Please find more information in the press release.