Dr. Arren Bar-Even

Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology, Am Mühlenberg 1, 14476 Potsdam-Golm, Germany


Title: The formate bio-economy: CO2 and electricity to biocommodities via synthetic formate assimilation

Our growing understanding of the design principles and biochemical logic of cellular metabolism enables us to engineer microbes to directly address humanity’s grand challenges. One such major challenge relates to the production of our essential chemicals, including fuels, plastics, pigments, and solvents. While microbes could be engineered to produce these compounds, identifying sustainable feedstock for their mass cultivation is challenging.

In this talk, I will discuss the formate bio-economy concept, identifying formate as an ideal mediator between the physicochemical and biological realms, e.g., formate can be synthesized efficiently using electrochemical reduction of CO2 and serve as sole carbon source for microbial growth. As natural formate assimilation pathways are either inefficient or are constrained to organisms that are difficult to cultivate and engineer, an advantageous strategy is to adapt model industrial organisms to formatotrophic growth using synthetic, specially tailored formate-assimilation routes.

I will present and discuss the computational approach we use to identify synthetic pathways with promising properties. I will further elaborate on the experimental challenges associated the establishment of the novel pathways and exemplify our metabolic engineering strategy that is based on dividing the pathways into metabolic modules, the activity of which are selected for within dedicated deletion strains.