Biofoundries offer a competitive advantage for biomanufacturers, and creating one now takes less than the historic two-to-three years. These facilities speed the iterative development of engineered biology at a high-throughput level, which increases biomanufacturers’ flexibility and enables more agile responses to changing demands.

Biofoundries should grow organically, but a recent paper outlines steps to streamline and facilitate their rapid development. The facility should start with a basic platform that eventually can support full automation and equipment interoperability and that will enhance efficiency.

As Pablo Carbonell, PhD, of the Institute of Industrial Control Systems and Computing (AI2), Universitat Politécnica de València (UPV) in Spain, and currently, visiting scholar at the Institute for Integrative Systems Biology (I2SysBio) explains, “The goal of the biomanufacturing concept is to go beyond the pilot program toward a facility that also can provide scale-up capabilities.

“In one scenario, a biofoundry is basically built for rapid prototyping and prospective assays. A second, more ambitious scheme considers biofoundries as fully automated biofactories in the context of the circular bioeconomy. In that vision, biofoundries will become powerhouses delivering solutions to address the demands and challenges of the bioeconomy.”

Multiple projects undersay simultaneously

A fully operational facility likely will have multiple projects underway simultaneously, and in various stages of the design-build-test-learn cycle. By considering the competing demands on the facility and devising solutions early, many bottlenecks can be avoided.

For example, in gene synthesis, “Operating a biofoundry requires assembling hundreds or thousands of genetic parts that should be synthesized,” Carbonell points out. “Building-in capabilities for in-house gene synthesis should alleviate such bottlenecks.”

Another common bottleneck involves directed evolution campaigns. As he says, “Running these campaigns may be seen as an offline task,” and so may introduce delays into the production chain.

The lack of a standardized method to generate predictive models for iterative development is another challenge. “Progress in machine learning, experimental design tools, and workflows (eventually) will overcome this bottleneck.”

Biofoundries do have limitations. They are based on the ability to streamline and automate strain development and scale-up “in a way that is agnostic to the target compound,” notes Carbonell. “The reality, however, is that each individual pathway and specific compound has its own issues that prevent them from achieving the maximum theoretical yields.”

Today, biofoundries serve as are a competitive advantage that can speed commercial biomanufacturing. While organic growth is natural, building in flexibility to account for innovation and automation can further speed the process, lower production costs, and reduce bottlenecks and other risks for biomanufacturers.

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