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Current Opinion in Microbiology
Vol. 25, 2015, Pages: 25–32

Guiding bioprocess design by microbial ecology

Jan Volmer, Andreas Schmid, Bruno Bühler

Laboratory of Chemical Biotechnology, Department of Biochemical and Chemical Engineering, TU Dortmund University, Emil-Figge-Straße 66, 44227 Dortmund, Germany.


Industrial bioprocess development is driven by profitability and eco-efficiency. It profits from an early stage definition of process and biocatalyst design objectives. Microbial bioprocess environments can be considered as synthetic technical microbial ecosystems. Natural systems follow Darwinian evolution principles aiming at survival and reproduction. Technical systems objectives are eco-efficiency, productivity, and profitable production. Deciphering technical microbial ecology reveals differences and similarities of natural and technical systems objectives, which are discussed in this review in view of biocatalyst and process design and engineering strategies. Strategies for handling opposing objectives of natural and technical systems and for exploiting and engineering natural properties of microorganisms for technical systems are reviewed based on examples. This illustrates the relevance of considering microbial ecology for bioprocess design and the potential for exploitation by synthetic biology strategies.


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