Cell factory

Engineered microbes and plant cells, also known as cell factories, can produce chemicals, polymers and proteins, as well as materials and food. They work in closed bioreactors with high efficiency, specificity and low energy requirements. VTT has extensive scientific and industrial experience of cell factory development and we develop cell factories for various biotechnical processes.

Key facts about cell factories

Synthetic biology enables faster development of Cell Factories that enable sustainable production of chemicals, polymers, proteins, even materials and food.

We serve customers from start-ups to established companies, from idea generation to clearly defined use case.

VTT is a one-stop-shop for a wide range of expertise needed for creating efficient cell factories.

Biotechnical processes enable the production of various bulk or platform chemicals, biopolymer precursors, high value chemicals such as flavours and fragrances, pharmaceuticals, sweeteners, vitamins or other food ingredients from renewable non-fossil resources.

Value of the global market in synthetic biology is several billions with annual growth forecast of about 25%. 

With the exponential development of new technologies, for instance in synthetic biology, VTT can now turn the complex chemistry of selected organisms into so-called Cell Factories. They produce desired products from desired raw materials, creating sustainable business opportunities.  

Expertise and infrastructure from design to pilot

Our cell factory development platform follows the design-build-test-learn cycle of synthetic biology followed by process development and piloting:  

  • Design: We have a versatile bioinformatics and computing platform for host design.  

  • Build: A robotic platform for efficient DNA assembly, transformation and strain screening.  

  • Test: Robotic platform and parallel bioreactor systems with automated analytics.  

  • Learn: Up-to-date computational tools for data analysis, evaluation, and re-design.  

  • Pilot: Industrial process development at relevant scales up to 1200 litres.    

Focus on bioinformatics, modelling and predictions

Use of computational methods for predesign of the desired organism enables shorter development cycles and savings in R&D projects. Our expertise covers assembling, annotating, and reconstructing genome-scale metabolic models from Next Generation DNA Sequencing data. We use omics (genomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics, fluxomics) to learn and further optimise production strains. Stable isotopic tracers and metabolomics may also be used for fluxome analytics. 

The deep understanding of host metabolism of our experts together with in silico design of engineering targets using genome-scale metabolic models allows identification of best possible solutions. 

Track record in production host engineering for customers

During the last 30 years, we have worked with different yeast and filamentous fungal species, bacteria, plant cells and microalgae with customers representing different industrial fields. We work with organisms provided by the customer or screen for suitable ones from our proprietary culture collection or from environmental samples. Our expertise in genetic engineering enables use of hosts not previously engineered. We also use adaptive evolution for improving strain performance. 

Our industrial success cases include the developing of a new Cell Factory host for low pH process for production of lactic acid (Cargill), and developing a yeast strain for consolidated bioprocessing with 50% reduction in the use of enzymes (Mascoma). 

Jari Rautio

Jari Rautio

Solution Sales Lead