Please join the Department of Chemical Engineering on Tuesday, February 19, 2019, for a guest lecture by Dr. Adam Westbrook, Postdoctoral Fellow at University of Waterloo, speaking on the development of genetic tools for the model bacterium Bacillus subtilis, and their application to strain engineering for the production of value-added chemicals.
Biomanufacturing is an integral component of the developing sustainable economy needed to mitigate the effects of overpopulation and climate change. Since penicillin was first produced on a large scale in the early 1940s, microbial fermentation has been the preferred method to produce a broad range of chemicals and therapeutics.
The pace of microbial strain development for bioprocessing has accelerated in recent years due to advances in recombinant DNA and genome editing technology, and the availability of proteomic, transcriptomic and metabolomic data to fuel the growth of systems biology. Harnessing these advanced technologies to construct highly productive microbial biomanufacturing platforms is critical to the development of bioprocesses that are economically viable.
In this seminar, Dr. Westbrook will address the development of genetic tools for the model bacterium Bacillus subtilis, and their application to strain engineering for the production of value-added chemicals. While B. subtilis has many of the attributes of an ideal biomanufacturing host, its widespread adoption has been hampered by a lack of genetic tools and genetic instability, compared to other industrial workhorses such as Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
To begin, Dr. Westbrook will outline the development of a genetic toolkit for B. subtilis based on the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-Cas9 system that has greatly simplified genetic engineering in this organism. He will then discuss the application of the CRISPR-Cas9 toolkit to the construction of B. subtilis strains that produce the highly valuable and versatile biopolymer hyaluronic acid. Similarly, he will describe the construction of strains that overproduce L-valine, an essential amino acid and component of dietary supplements, cosmetics and animal feed, in addition to the platform chemical isobutyrate, an intermediate of methyl methacrylate production.
This work has generated highly productive microbial platforms for biobased production of value-added chemicals and polymers, with the ultimate aim of transferring these technologies to Canada’s emerging biotechnology sector.
Dr. Westbrook completed his BASc, MASc and PhD at the University of Waterloo under the supervision of Dr. C. Perry Chou and Dr. Murray Moo-Young. He has developed expertise with the CRISPR-Cas9 system, which is the most advanced system for genome engineering and transcriptional modulation currently available. He has extensively applied CRISPR-Cas9 to the development of biomanufacturing platforms based on the bacterium B. subtilis.
After publishing several peer-reviewed manuscripts in this area in the last few years, Dr. Westbrook is interested in continuing to develop strains for enhanced hyaluronic acid, L-valine and isobutyrate production with the ultimate goal of commercialization. He is also interested in developing platforms for the production of other biobased products and exploring the application of hyaluronic acid to the development of targeted drug delivery systems.
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