Singapore’s Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences (ICES), a research institute of The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), officially opened its Metabolic Engineering Research Laboratory (MERL) in Biopolis. The new laboratory will design and engineer microbial cellular factories (Escherichia coli- and yeast-based) capable of cost-effectively producing high value chemicals from agricultural waste.
The laboratory intends to develop new strategies and applications for efficient biomass utilization. It will also focus on developing new computational and experimental approaches for synthetic biology and metabolic engineering applications to accelerate the engineering of the cellular factories.
The MERL laboratory will work for the benefit of a sustainable chemicals industry, which is looking for green alternatives to traditional petrochemical routes. The technology developments from MERL are intended to provide sustainable routes for the production of chemicals such as acrylic acid, butadiene, and adipic acid from biorenewable sources. The systems biology and metabolic engineering toolbox that the laboratory develops can serve as an enabling platform for the biofuels, pharmaceutical, and nutraceutical industries.
The derivation of chemicals from biomass is an emerging field requiring expertise in genomics, mechanical processing, metabolic engineering, catalysis and process engineering. This platform aims to foster collaborations amongst the research institutes from A*STAR’s Biomedical Research Council and Science and Engineering Research Council.
Through the convergence of capabilities, researchers study technology challenges and develop platform technologies which can be transferred to industry and applied to a wide range of chemical targets. The research brings together biologists, chemists, physicists, and engineers, universities and industry partners to work on common goals, organized to create solutions for applications in medical, chemical, food, and agricultural industries.
A*STAR oversees 14 biomedical sciences and physical sciences and engineering research institutes, and six consortia & centres, located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis as well as their immediate vicinity.