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SYNTHBIOMICS, a project to drive Health, Food, Sustainable Energy, and Industrial Decarbonization through Disruptive Synthetic Biology Innovations.

Last September, the National Renewable Energy Center (CENER) launched a new project aimed at developing and showcasing the potential of Synthetic Biology in key areas for the economic development of Navarra. Synthetic biology combines principles from biology, chemistry, engineering, and computing to create tools and techniques that allow the manipulation and reprogramming of living organisms to perform specific tasks.

Following an inaugural project kick-off meeting on September 21st at the CIMA headquarters in Pamplona (Navarra, Spain), the SYNTHBIOMICS project officially begins. It is a public-private initiative composed of 7 entities from various sectors. Alongside CENER, participants include FIMA as the coordinator, CNTA, NASERTIC, Centro Stirling, TAIREL DATA, and NUCAPS. SYNTHBIOMICS aims to develop and implement a biotechnological strategy with three fundamental axes of action.

In the field of energy and industrial decarbonization, it holds significant potential for the production of biofuels and/or bioproducts from CO2 and CO-rich gas streams with the contribution of renewable H2. Through the engineering of microorganisms, it is possible to develop more efficient biocatalysts that enable the production of chemical intermediaries (building blocks) as a basis for a wide range of (bio-)fuels or (bio-)products, thereby reducing dependence on fossil fuels and other derived products and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Over the next two years, CENER, in particular, will focus on developing genetically modified microorganisms that are more efficient for the synthesis of chemical platforms (building blocks). This will allow, through sustainable and efficient processes, the production of advanced biofuels and other (bio-)products from gas streams. The starting point will be organisms capable of most efficiently fixing single-carbon gaseous compounds, and their metabolic pathways will be modified to divert these carbon atoms towards the production of substrates of interest for various industries, with a focus on energy and chemistry.

In the health domain, FIMA, NASERTIC, TAIREL DATA, and NUCAPS will collaborate to generate the availability of “off-the-shelf” nanobodies obtained from the synthetic library. These nanobodies can be used for the recognition of any antigen, with therapeutic applications, especially in oncology and immunotherapy. In a completely innovative approach, a synthetic nanobody library will be designed and synthesized, which will be validated in vitro and in vivo in the context of a therapeutically relevant tumor antigen.

In the field of food, CNTA along with Centro Stirling will work on generating specific biosensors for more sensitive detection of food contaminants (acrylamides, arsenic, pesticides, etc.). The objective is to significantly contribute to food safety by creating highly specific biosensors for chemical contaminants, reducing analysis times and costs significantly.

NASERTIC participates transversally in all technical activities related to DNA reading/writing but is also responsible for implementing a digital platform ensuring data security, integrity, and accessibility. Additionally, together with Centro Stirling and TAIREL DATA, specific strategies will be developed and implemented for the proper exploitation of the data generated by the project.

Synthetic biology is an emerging technology with enormous potential for developing new biotechnological solutions in diverse fields such as health, food, energy, and industry. The ability to design and build customized biological systems offers a unique opportunity to address some of the most urgent global challenges we are facing nowadays.

Funded by the Government of Navarre as a Strategic Project in Challenge 7: SIBERIA, Innovative Solutions in Biotechnology

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