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13TSB_SynBio: Feasibility study on application of synthetic biology approaches to high yield production of Mycosporine-like Amino Acids for use as ...

Principal Investigator / Supervisor Professor Jeffery Errington
Co-Investigators /
Dr Jennifer Hallinan, Professor Colin Harwood, Professor Anil Wipat
Institution Newcastle University
DepartmentInst for Cell and Molecular Biosciences
Funding typeResearch
Value (£) 250,979
TypeResearch Grant
Start date 01/06/2013
End date 30/11/2014
Duration18 months


not required on previous TSB approved application.


Solar radiation reaching the Earth consists of infrared (>800 nm), visible (PAR, 400-750 nm) and ultraviolet-A (UVA, 320-400 nm). Damage to skin through exposure to ultra violet (UV) radiation is a major societal concern and consequently there is a significant consumer demand for cosmetics formulated to block UV penetration. Materials used to block UV penetration to the skin include inorganic metal oxide particles and organic filters. Currently, organic UV-absorbing compounds are manufactured from non-renewable petrochemicals and, as a result, there is considerable commercial interest in developing organic UV-absorber compounds from renewable materials. Croda wish to develop a sustainable manufacturing process for efficient, high-level production of a natural occurring group of UV-absorbing compounds, namely Mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs), for use as a sunscreen additive to skin care products. Currently, the commercial production of MAAs for use in sunscreens is not a viable proposition due to the low yield and lack of fermentation technology associated with native MAA-producing organisms. This project will overcome this limitation by expressing genes encoding known MAA biosynthetic pathway enzymes in a bacterium that is widely used in industry to produce house-hold and food products and that has an excellent track record for safety.

Impact Summary

Who will benefit from this research and how will they benefit? The project will benefit both Croda and Newcastle University through increased integration and collaboration across a key strategic area of activity, namely synthetic biology. The application of this technology to a defined commercially driven application will benefit academic staff through generating truly translational research. This project has the potential to provide Croda with platform technologies to exploit for the sustainable production novel metabolites or metabolites currently produced from oil-based technology. It is expected that the inter-disciplinary nature of the project will provide a platform for new career opportunities for the appointed Research Assistants and hence the project will become a source of highly trained researchers with significant added cross-disciplinary skills (i.e. between microbiology, bioinformatics, biomedical sciences, biochemistry, fermentation and downstream processing). What will be done to ensure benefits result from the Project? The results arising from the project will be used by Croda to develop a sustainable industrial process with significant commercial potential. The resulting platform technologies will also provide Croda with sustainable approaches for the development of new products or the replacement of existing products manufactured from oil-based technologies.
Committee Research Committee D (Molecules, cells and industrial biotechnology)
Research TopicsIndustrial Biotechnology, Microbiology, Pharmaceuticals, Synthetic Biology
Research PriorityX – Research Priority information not available
Research Initiative Innovate UK (TSB) [2011-2015]
Funding SchemeX – not Funded via a specific Funding Scheme
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